The Presidency said this while reacting to the publication of excerpts from the report by an international news agency, Reuters, and local media outfits on Wednesday.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said the excerpts from the report could not be taken as an official document because the committee had not formally submitted its report to the appropriate authority.
Abati said as far as the Federal Government was concerned, the report in the public domain was suspicious.
He said if indeed the published report was the committee’s genuine work, whoever leaked it to the press did not mean well and was out to embarrass the government.
He said, “It is strange that government will set up a committee, that report has not been submitted to the authorities that set up the committee and the report will be found on the pages of newspapers.
“The report cannot be taken as an official document because the proper procedure is for committees set up by the government to submit their reports to the government. In principle, this report in the public domain is suspicious because it was not submitted to the appropriate authority.
“If every committee set up by government goes above the system to leak reports, there can be chaos. Whoever leaked the report, if indeed the report is genuine, does not mean well. Whoever is behind it is out to embarrass the government.”
When asked whether by his submission, the Federal Government might probe the alleged leakage, Abati said the first step was for members of the committee to come out and confirm whether it was indeed their report.
One of our correspondents learnt that the Senate Committees on Petroleum (Upstream) and Gas might subject the outcome of the report to further investigation, following the gravity of claims in it.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas, Mrs. Nkechi Nwogu, told our correspondent on the telephone on Thursday that the committee would want to look at the report to find out the true position of things as contained in it.
Nwogu said, “With all these revelations, I can assure you that the Senate in particular will not want to sweep such accusations under the carpet.
“I am sure the Senate will want to find out things for itself.”
However, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, said there was no plan to cover up the findings of the committee, but that another panel had been set up to look into the contents.
Alison-Madueke had said while reacting to Reuters enquiries that a committee had been set up by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look into differences in perspective on the Ribadu committee report.
She had said, “We have set up a team that is looking at them across the board to see if there is a difference in opinion or a difference in perspective.
“This team will complete its work and submit a comprehensive report in the next 10 days.”
The minister’s statement had fuelled speculations that the new committee would remove aspects that the government was not comfortable with from the report before making it public.
However, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Thursday, the spokesman of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Kingsley Agha, said no cover up was intended.
He said, “You cannot cover up the report of the committee. You cannot cover up the report of a committee made up of people of integrity. They will not agree to that. The minister does not have anything to hide; otherwise, she would not have set up the committee.
“It is too early for me to speak on the report since it has not gone to the President and I have not seen it.”
The Acting Group General Manager, Public Affairs, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Fidel Pepple, said a reconciliation committee was necessary.
“When reports like this are produced, it is normal practice to reconcile and clarify aspects of it that may not be clear,” he said.
Reuters had on Wednesday quoted extensively from the report, which it said was confidential.
The Reuters report was widely quoted in the local media on Thursday.
The 146-page report, according to the international news agency, had stated that a total of $183m (N28.73bn) in signature bonuses paid by oil companies to the federation was missing.
The report said that Ministers of Petroleum Resources between 2008 and 2011 handed out seven discretionary oil licences, but that $183m in signature bonuses was missing from the deals.
Three of the oil licences were said to have been awarded since the current minister, Alison-Madueke, took up her position in 2010.