Former minister of finance, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman, has blamed late Gen. Sani Abacha for the problems currently rocking the petroleum sector, whose current minister is General Muhammadu Buhari.
Usman made his stance known in Abuja on Monday, May 23, 2016 during a speech at the inauguration of a study group on giving voice and voting power to retail shareholders in the Nigeria.
He noted that the study became paramount following a discovery that leaders of the various zonal associations have resorted to exploiting the association for their selfish gains, rather than meeting the interests of the small investors in stocks.
The former minister opined that the problem would not have persisted if Abacha did not stop the privatization of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, after taking over power in 1993.
He said: “The biggest problem of this country is lack of continuity. What happened was that Abacha came and put a cutlass and just cut it off.
“The reforms of NEPA, the reforms of NNPC all these NITEL, Nigeria Airways, SwissAir had actually paid for it. By today, we would have had a national carrier. All these reforms that you are seeing would have been concluded long ago.
“For NNPC, if you see the fight that we fought even with the Minister of Petroleum who was one of the most powerful ministers that were closest to Babangida.
“We insisted that the Minister of Petroleum should not be the chairman of NNPC and that was approved by the National Executive Council. So we removed him as the chairman of the NNPC because NNPC was to be restructured as a full commercial entity.
“But I was surprised that when I came back to government, the Minister of Petroleum had gone back to become the chairman of NNPC.”
Usman observed that some of the leaders of the associations had remained in office for 18 years as against the dictates of the code of conduct which allows a maximum of two terms of two years.
He said: “Following the privatization of some of the public companies, we went to a number of AGMs and saw how they were being conducted and we told ourselves that we had to do something to protect the small shareholders from the sharks – because there was one key group of shareholders at a time. It was hotly debated at the meeting of the TCPC.
“Consequently, we went to the zones across the country for awareness creation. We even facilitated the establishment of the Zonal Shareholders Associations across the country.
“That was how shareholders associations were established in Port-Harcourt, Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Onitsha, Kaduna and Jos.
“It was actually the TCPC that funded the establishment of these associations because we thought we were trying to establish democratic capitalism. So the retail shareholders should have voice and votes and their votes should count in the corporate democratic process. That was the idea.
“We had code of conduct which we expected all the leaders to be subject. The question is, are the representatives of the shareholders associations observing that code of conducts?
“Yes, the retail shareholders have a voice but the voice is not being used for the purpose for which we designed it. One of the key provisions of the code of conducts was for democratic elections into the executive positions.
“I was amazed to come back after about 18 years, to find that some of those people that we had when we established the Zonal Associations are still the leaders of the same associations. So clearly, there was no democracy at all.
“There is supposed to be elections every two years and you can serve only two terms of two years. Yet when I look at the leaders of the associations, they are still the same people up till now.”