Six months after the Senate mandated its joint committees on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Petroleum Resources (Upstream) and Gas to probe an alleged N10 trillion-subsidy fraud by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and independent marketers in the country, new facts have emerged on why the committees are yet to swing into action.
The committees were specifically given the marching orders on the 6th of March, 2017. The probe was expected to cover the tenures of three former presidents, namely, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan. As President, Obasanjo served as the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources for almost eight years.
The late President Yar’Adua also served in that capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources. Jonathan on the other hand, relinquished the position. Currently, President Buhari serves in that capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources, while Ibe Kachikwu holds sway as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources.
Senator Dino Melaye, who heads the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) committee, had, while moving a motion to that effect, said all the oil marketers currently facing trial over alleged subsidy fraud only constitute 49 per cent of those who import refined products.
Senator Melaye, told the Senate about the refusal of the Federal Government to probe the NNPC, which he said got 51 out of 100 per cent share of companies sanctioned to import petroleum products into the country.
According to the joint committee chairman, Senator Kabiru Marafa, lawmakers would have looked into subsidy spent on importation of petroleum products from 2006 to date. Senator Tayo Alaosoadura, who heads Upstream and Senator Albert Bassey Akpan, who chairs Gas, were to co-chair the probe.
Melaye, had while moving the motion, said: “The Federal Government is prosecuting marketers and these marketers only constitute 49 per cent of imported refined products. The NNPC is responsible for the importation of 51 per cent.
“While we are prosecuting the independent marketers whose proceed from subsidy is about N3.83 trillion, NNPC collected a total of N5.1 trillion on subsidy and this has never been investigated.
“This has never been looked at and we are busy chasing independent marketers. The time to look at the books of NNPC as regards petroleum subsidy is now.
“We have taken the lead in the fight against corruption in this chamber and I want to say we must do everything within our powers to investigate and bring whoever is found wanting to book.”
President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, had also mandated the joint committees to exhaustively review and investigate the NNPC over its accounts, relating to fuel subsidy and the abuse of product marketing and distribution between 2006 and 2016.
Charging the Senate committee on Petroleum (Downstream) to conduct a holistic investigation, Saraki had said: “A situation where individuals do what they like and are not accountable to anybody should be stopped. The committee should do a thorough job and ensure that they get to the root of this issue. The thing borders on the issue of corruption, which has been affecting the country negatively.”
Few days after the marching orders were given, Marafa, alongside Alaosoadura and Akpan, told newsmen that the NNPC got about N5.3 trillion within the period, while independent marketers received 3.8 trillion. They revealed that an outstanding debt of about N600 billion owed to independent marketers was part of the total N10 trillion.
This is coming at a time the NNPC is being accused of lop-sidedness in its recent redeployment of its staff. The Igbo socio-political organization, Ohanaeze, said the move was a reflection of the “consistent disdain” for the South East by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Findings by Ripples Nigeria, have however shown that the heads of the three joint committees have been prevailed upon to jettison the probe.
It was learnt that senators, predominantly from North West and the leadership of NNPC, including the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, prevailed on Marafa, who hails from Zamfara state, to suspend the move.
Multiple sources from the three committees, who told Ripples Nigeria that they had already concluded arrangements to commence the probe and that letters had been dispatched to the various parties involved to appear, said they were told to put everything on hold, without any explanation.
It was learnt that the lawmakers and top echelons in NNPC, moved against the probe, over fears that it could be extended to the administrations of late Yar’Adua and President Muhammadu Buhari, who both hail from Katsina State, North West.
A member of Downstream committee, who spoke to our correspondent in confidence, said the original intention was to drag President Jonathan and his former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The lawmaker said members of the committee from the South East and South South, at a pre-public hearing meeting, insisted that subsidy payments made since 1999 be probed.
He said senators from South West and North West kicked. The senator revealed that it was at this point that Marafa, who chairs the joint committee, ended the meeting abruptly so as to report to Northern caucus.
The member of the upper chamber said Saraki has been briefed on the issue and that he told the lawmakers to stay action until the Senate resumes later this month.
At the moment, it can not be authoritatively stated whether or not the probe will go ahead and will be finally jettisoned by the Red Chamber.
By Ehisuan Odia…
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