The Senate Ad hoc Committee on the Petroleum Technology Development Fund has faulted President Olusegun Obasanjo for acting outside the Act establishing the PTDF. It, however, indicted Vice-President Atiku Abubakar for the mismanagement of the agency’s funds. In a report formally presented by its Chairman, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, to the Senate on Tuesday, the committee found Obasanjo and the Federal Executive Council guilty of allegedly using PTDF money for projects not covered within the law establishing the fund. It said, ”In respect of some projects commenced by the PTDF in 2006, particularly the establishment of African Institute of Science and Technology in the FCT, incorporation of Galaxy Backbone Plc; and purchase of computers for civil servants under the Computer for All Nigerians Initiative, for which Obasanjo gave approval and subsequently obtained the ratification of the FEC, laudable as they may seem, they were outside the mandate of the PTDF as provided for in Section 2 of the enabling Act. ”The President and the FEC acted in disregard of the law establishing the PTDF. Though the ratification by the FEC may mitigate this breach of the law, it however, does not absolve the President and the council of blame.” The committee, therefore, recommended that the President “be advised to adhere strictly to the provisions of the law establishing the PTDF at all times in either approving projects, expenditure of funds or howsoever.” The committe indicted Abubakar for allegedly aiding and abetting the placement of $145m belonging to the PTDF in banks. It added that the money which was meant for specific projects, was fraudulently given out as loans to companies. The report reads in part, ”That His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, abused his office by aiding and abetting the diversion of public funds in the sums of $125m and $20m respectively approved for specific projects to deposits in banks, some of which were fraudulently converted to loans to Netlink Digital Television, Mofas Shipping Company Limited and Transvari Services Limited.” It also noted that contrary to the argument by Abubakar that PTDF funds were not lost in the various placements, N1.130bn loaned in two instalments to the NDTV; N420m to Mofas Shipping Company Limited; and N300m to Transvari Services Limited by TIB were yet to be recovered. The committee, however, said that although the loans had been restructured with the acquisition of TIB by Spring Bank Plc., they (loans) might not be recovered outside the restructured framework without endangering the health of Spring Bank. It, therefore, recommended that the VP be penalised for the offences. It added that the Marine Float Limited Accounts, which had generated a lot of public interest, was outside its terms of reference as no PTDF funds were traced directly to the account. But the committee noted that the company was at best, a second line beneficiary of the PTDF funds.
By Emmanuel Ayomide Praise (with help from The PUNCH)