The use and abuse of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF)

1 Comment » June 30th, 2009 posted by // Categories: General Articles



 The use and abuse of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF)

The chequered history of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) dates back to 1973 when the Fund was established under a Military Decree (now Act) No. 25 of 1973 (its forerunner was the now defunct Gulf Oil Company Fund). Section 2 of Act No. 25 of 1973 establishing the Fund provides that the Fund shall be available for the purpose of training Nigerians to qualify as Graduates, Professionals, Technicians and Craftsmen, in the fields of engineering, geology, science and management in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria or abroad. Specifically, the referred section further provides that the Fund shall utilize its resources for the following major purposes:

 

a)      To provide scholarships and bursaries, wholly or partially in the Universities, Collages, Institutions and in Nigeria or abroad;

b)      To maintain, supplement, or subsidise such training or education as mentioned above;

c)      To make suitable endowments to faculties in Nigerian Universities, Collages or institutions as approved by the minister

d)      To make available suitable books and training equipment in the institutions aforesaid

e)      For sponsoring regular or as necessary visits to oil fields, refineries, petrochemical plants, and for arranging any necessary attachments of personnel to establishments connected with the development of the oil and gas industry; and

f)        For financing of and participation in seminars and conferences which are connected with oil and gas industry in Nigeria or Abroad.

 

The Fund was administratively sheltered under the management of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (MPR). However this was later to change when in 2000, it was moved to the Presidency when its fortunes changed positively and tremendously. For the 27 years (i.e.1973-2000) when it was under the supervision and management of both the MPR and DPR respectively, the Fund was largely unknown to the Nigerian general public and the generality of oil and gas industry stakeholders.

 

The reason for its very long unobtrusive presence is not farfetched. The amounts of money in the kitty of the Fund were not that huge and sizeable enough to draw and attract public attention and the usual bureaucratic rat race to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Fund.  It was only in 2000, when President Obasanjo’s civilian administration started putting into practice Open and Competitive bidding principles for oil bloc acreages allocation that huge sums of money started filling up the Fund’s purse in the range of billions of naira. Presumably, that was what necessitated the taking away the Fund from the supervision and management of the MPR and DPR by the Presidency.

 

With these new developments, the Presidency quickly set up a new administrative and management structure for the Fund with the Office of the Vice President as the anchor. This gave rise to the establishment of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) in September 2000 headed by the then Special Adviser to the president on Petroleum and Energy Matters, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman (i.e. the current Petroleum Minister). The IMC operated under the direct supervision of the then Vice President Atiku Abubakar up to 2005. A pioneer substantive Executive Secretary (ES)/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) was subsequently appointed in the person of Alhaji (Dr.) Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar (alias Mai Rago) from Kaduna State (2000-2005).

 

The period 2000-2005 was a remarkable one in the history of the existence of the Fund. For example, it was during this period that the Fund made its marks in translating the objectives for which the Fund was established from mere words into practical realities. For instance, the dreams of thousands of qualified Nigerian youths yearning for advanced and specialized education and training in the oil and gas and related fields became realities. Thousands of qualified Nigerian graduates (including my humble self) benefitted and continue to benefit from the local and Overseas Scholarships schemes established by the Fund in addition to its other numerous laudable programmes, projects and policies.

 

In Nigeria, more often than not, success attracts envy from some unusual quarters. For example, political interferences suddenly emerged and raging battles for who should be the ES/CEO of the Fund became the order of the day. For instance, the political power brokers in Kaduna State chapter of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wanted Dr. Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar removed and insisted that their own chosen man (i.e. Alhaji Mohammed Husaini Jallo) must replace Dr. Yusuf even though President Obasanjo had already approved a second 4-year term for him as the ES/CEO of the Fund.

 

In addition, the sudden breakdown in the hitherto cordial relationship existing between President Obasanjo and his Vice President, Atiku Abubakar (particularly between 2005 and 2007), as a result of the fallout of the political skirmishes leading to the 2003 presidential election nomination contest/gambit; including the ill-fated Third Term presidential gamble, further compounded the situation.

 

Thus, between 2005 and 2007, the PTDF became the major focal point of political rat race and gambit by the very powerful and influential members of the ruling political party to control the sudden petroleum windfall rents accruing into the Fund’s purse. Therefore, all sorts of dirty games and tricks were used in order to succeed in controlling the fortunes amassed by the PTDF.

 

The end result of the conflicts that ensued in the process of the attempts to control the fortunes of the PTDF left its credibility in tartars. For example, the Fund was dragged into the political mud; all sorts of investigations/probes of manufactured and concocted allegations and counter allegations made by the political gladiators and their cohorts against each other were conducted; more often than not, using the instrumentalities of the State, particularly the use of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to smear, intimidate and hound political rivals into submission and surrender.

 

Some of the widely media reported allegations of misdeeds labelled against the handling of the financial resources of the PTDF during the immediate past administration of president Obasanjo; bordering on gross misappropriation of the financial resources of the Fund in pursuits of largely private motivated agendas include:

 

i)                    Huge off-budget financial contribution to funding of the private presidential Library belonging to president Obasanjo;

ii)                   Huge off-budget financial contribution to the funding of The African University of Science and Technology (AUST) – a private, pan-African, coeducational, research university located in Abuja, Nigeria (AUST is a regional initiative established by the Nelson Mandela Institution (NMI, Inc.) in 2007. Conceived by Africans from the Diaspora, incubated by the World Bank Institute (WBI) from its inception);

i)                    Huge off-budget financial contribution towards the design and manufacture of a military Pistol named “Obasanjo-007” by the moribund Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), Kaduna;

ii)                   Establishment of a nebulous information technology outfit named Galaxy internet Backbone;

iii)                 Payment of N250million for the incorporation of the hitherto unknown Galaxy Backbone IT company. The money was paid to a law firm believed to be owned by an individual with very close personal relationship with president Obasanjo;

iv)                 Lack of transparency in the handling of the Fund’s financial transactions with other third parties in the financial and business sector and

v)                  Lavish spending amounting to ‘gold platting’ in furnishing the PTDF Headquarter office complex and other sundry issues.

 

All these allegations were said to have been committed without transparency and in utter disregards of Due Process as constantly preached by the administration of President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007). Almost all of these aforementioned projects were also alleged to be outside the statutory functions and mandates of the PTDF. Some of these allegations became the subject of private litigations in the Courts of law and/or legislative oversight probes etc; especially after president Obasanjo left office in 2007.

 

Therefore, between 2005 and 2007, the PTDF experienced serious political turbulences to the extent that, it was headed by three (3) Executive Secretaries/CEOs in quick successions. The incumbent ES/CEO of the Fund, Engineer Muttaqha Rabe Darma (mnse, mnim), took over as its fifth ES/CEO on November 18, 2008 from Alhaji Kabir A. Mohammed, who assumed duty on the 9th of November, 2006. Others who served in the similar capacity between 2005 and 2006 include former local government chairman, Alhaji Mohammed Husaini Jallo, who had a short but controversial tenure and Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri, who replaced Alhaji Jallo but also later resigned in November 2006 to contest the 2007 governorship election in Yobe State.

 

Hence, Engr. Darma, since assumption of office, has unfolded a 5-point development agenda that will guide his stewardship of the Funds toward achieving its aims, objectives and mandate as stated in its enabling Act; with clear vision and mission. This he is doing notwithstanding the enormous daily geopolitical challenges and constant misunderstanding of what the Fund is all about, especially coming from some stakeholders with vested interests. It is pertinent therefore to review some of the milestones achieved by Engr. Darma since assuming office as the fifth ES/CEO of the Fund in November 2008.

 

The first noticeable milestone was the consolidation and continuation of the progress made by his predecessor, Alhaji Kabir A. Mohammed, who during his two year tenure in office wasted no time in rebuilding the lost glories and reputations of the Fund. For example, Engr. Muttaqha did not undertake any major reshuffling and/or sacking of staff. Rather, he concentrated in strengthening the capacity of the staff to do their work. For example, many of the staff participated in a number of local and overseas staff development/capacity-building seminars, workshops and courses. In addition, many staff got their promotion approved as away of motivating them to put in more efforts. Evidence of this can be gleaned from the Fund’s official website at: [www.ptdf.gov.ng].

 

Having consolidated the good legacies left by his predecessors, Engr. Muttaqha set for himself a progressive development-oriented agenda. As mentioned above, a 5-point agenda was designed. Its implementation is on-going. Other salient milestones recorded since November 2008 are as follows:

 

a)      To his credit, Engr. Muttaqha finalised and approved the upward review of the Fund’s Overseas Scholarship Scheme (OSS) students’ allowances; particularly the residential/hostel rental allowances that were hitherto inadequate and many students had to deep into their sustenance allowances to make up the difference (although some scholars awarded scholarship this year are yet to receive their rental allowances to date and have not received any explanation from the Fund for the delay). Over 600 eligible Nigerians have so far benefited from the OSS programme.

 

b)      He introduced a quarterly payment plan for disbursement of stipends and allowances in compliance with the federal government’s e-payment directive. Hitherto, all payments to scholars were done on monthly basis.

 

c)      Engr. Muttaqha visited a number of overseas Universities in the United Kingdom (UK) where the PTDF scholars are studying with a view to ascertaining their welfare needs as well as the quality of the training they are receiving in those institutions.

 

d)      He incorporated Field Work/Laboratory Research Materials Allowances into the total package of the OSS PhD Scholars Award – based on need and supported by official documents from the scholar’s institution. Hitherto, almost none of the PhD scholars were given Field Work and/or Laboratory Research Materials allowances. As a result, many of the PhD scholars had to do their PhD research work using their privately sourced funds.

 

e)      He rationalised and streamlined the Fund’s OSS PhD Awards principally to applicants who are staff of Nigerian Universities, Polytechnics and other higher educational institutions. This is to further build the local capacities of Nigerian higher education institutions in delivering the Fund’s statutory functions and mandates in the long run. Therefore, more than 70 percent of such Awards will now be granted to this category of PhD applicants.

 

f)        Engr. Muttaqha expanded the award of both local and foreign scholarship at undergraduate, masters and PhD levels. For example, for the masters level Overseas Scholarship Scheme (OSS), the number of beneficiaries from each states of the federation has now been raised from 2-3 per state to 5-8 per state and 8-10 or more each for the oil producing states; despite the economic downturn. This can be attested from the last Award exercise conducted by the Fund.

 

g)      He expanded the scholarship programme to cover local universities and polytechnics under the Local Scholarship Scheme (LSS) that include training at both undergraduate, master’s and PhD levels. This means many eligible Nigerians will receive scholarships from the Fund to study locally in Universities and polytechnics in Nigeria. This is part of the Fund’s local content development/capacity-building promotion.

 

h)      In terms of local institutional capacity building and local content development promotion, the Fund increased the number of participating institutions to include some selected Polytechnics apart from the existing selected Nigerian Universities. For example, at the moment, the following selected Nigerian Universities are beneficiaries of the Fund’s generous institutional capacity building programmes:

 

1.      University of Port Harcourt (Gas Engineering Department)

2.      University of Ibadan (Petroleum Engineering Department)

3.      University of Benin (Chemical Engineering Department)

4.      University of Nigeria, Nsukka (Geology Department)

5.      University of Maiduguri (Geology Department)

6.      University of Jos (Geology and Mining Department)

7.      Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (Chemical Engineering Department)

8.      Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (Pure and Applied Chemistry Department)

 

The PTDF special endowment for these selected Nigerian Universities have been revised upwards from the initial sum of N10 million each to N60 million per institution. Other beneficiary institutions include: Calabar, Ile Ife, Owerri, Kano, Bauchi, Minna, Uyo and Ilorin (i.e. including 2 additional Universities from the mineral producing states).

 

f)        Engr. Darma also hastened the implementation of some strategic projects/programmes in the oil producing states that include:

 

1.              Completion of the Federal Technical Institute, Bonny in Rivers State designed to train students in obtaining professional certificates in Gas, Petroleum and Environmental studies.

2.              Establishment of the Federal Polytechnic, Ekowe, Bayelsa State with specialisation in Gas, Petroleum and Environmental studies.

3.              Establishment of primary and secondary schools at Oporaza and Okeronkoko communities in Delta State.

 

However, speedy implementation of these projects suffered from the restiveness of youths and violent activities of militants in the communities where they are located. However, Engr. Muttaqha visited these areas and engaged the community leaders and the youths/militants into constructive dialogue. This paid up and the projects are being implemented with least resistance at the moment. The contractors handling the projects have also received stern warnings that include termination of non-performing contracts and or contracts that are abandoned for no reason.

 

Last but by no means had the least, Engr. Muttaqha took the bull by the horn when he recently resuscitated and upgraded the 14-year old dormant/comatose National College of Petroleum Studies (CPS), Kaduna with an N14.5billion capital project budget earmark. The College was initially established in 1995 by the NNPC for local capacity building in the fields of policy and management for its middle and senior level staff cadre.

 

The great initiative was left abandoned by successive NNPC managements since its inception in 1995. Remarkably however, the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the construction of the College’s permanent site on a-90 hectares piece of land provided free by the Kaduna state Government for the project was performed by Engr. Muttaqha on Tuesday, June 23, 2009. The project has a target of 97 weeks (from July 1, 2009) for completion and commissioning according to PTDF sources.

 

Only recently, on Wednesday June 3, 2009, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved a total of N14.5 billion for the upgrade of the College and approved the takeover of the college by the Federal Government. Hence, Engr. Muttaqha has promised to transform the College (now to be known as Institute for Petroleum Policy and Strategy) into a world class training institution for enhancing the skills and competencies of senior technical and management personnel in the entire oil and gas industry in Nigeria and other countries.

 

Similarly, according to PTDF sources, the Fund has so far spent about 17billion naira in the educational, organizational and infrastructural upgrade of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun near Warri for enhanced training of middle level manpower for the oil and gas industry. Furthermore, the sum of N10billion has been earmarked to be utilised on staff development, structural upgrade and physical upgrade. This will bring the total sum of N27billion invested and to be invested on the development of PTI Effurun near Warri.

 

In conclusion therefore, this narrative must however point out that there are other great challenges which the current PTDF management is yet to successfully address. However, given the political will and support of Mr. President, these unresolved problems and challenges will soon be history. PTDF has within the past year or so, been able to consolidate and further advanced the progress made thus far, in trying to fulfil its statutory functions and mandates under a purposeful, youthful and dynamic leadership with a clear vision and mission.

 

 

Abubakar Atiku Nuhu-Koko

Sunday, 28 June 2009

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One Response to “The use and abuse of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF)”

  1. Washington Enabulele says:

    Great achievements within a very short time. I’ve alaways known the Executive Secretary to be an achiever. More power to your elbows. Good job.

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