Reps allege plot to kill subsidy report

2012-04-24
NATIONAL MIRROR Newspaper

The House of Representatives has alleged plans by 18 oil marketers to kill its report on the controversial Federal Government subsidy on petroleum products from 2009-2011. The report which was laid in plenary last week by the Chairman of the subsidy panel, Hon. Faruk Lawan (PDP/Kano), is slated for debate today.

The spokesman of the Green Chamber, Hon. Zakari Muhammed (PDP/ Kwara) in a statement issued yesterday, said several individuals, including 18 oil marketers who declined an earlier invitation to appear before the panel on subsidy are now desperate to rubbish the report.

“Regarding the group of 18 marketers who were deeply involved in the subsidy payouts, but declined to appear before the ad hoc committee, the purported recourse to legal action is, in our opinion, an orchestrated plot to scuttle the findings of the committee,” he stated.

“Following the presentation of the report on subsidy regime, several individuals, marketers and corporate organisations not favoured by the report have sought to impugn its authenticity.

“Coming under various guise, including but not limited to buck-passing and alleged non-invitation to the investigative hearing, several of them are desperately seeking to undermine the outcome of the report consideration billed for tomorrow (today),” he alleged.

He stated that the lawmakers would ignore the decision by the marketers to go to court against the House, as he recalled that they failed to appear before the committee to state their side of the subsidy fraud allegations.

“For instance, despite repeated appeals by the Farouk Lawan-led committee to all those who had anything to do with the country’s subsidy regime between 2009 and 2011 to come forward and make presentations before it, some of these organisations conveniently chose to stay away-obviously, because they have something to hide-only to turn around now to claim non-invitation,” he stated.

The House spokesman also lambasted the NNPC for claims that the ad hoc committee may have altered its own report.

According to Muhammed, the Committee could not have doctored its own report as alleged, even as he challenged the Corporation to tell Nigerians if the House altered NNPC’s version of the said report.

“For the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), claims that the Ad hoc Committee report may have been altered to embarrass it (The NNPC), is only in tandem with the current reckoning of its spokesman as a ‘Chief Denial Officer’. The corporation must have been in possession of another version of the report for it to assert that the one officially laid before the House of Representatives on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 was altered.”

He urged Nigerians to disregard statements emanating from people or organisations indicted by the report, as proceedings on the report begin today.

“As the House of Representatives begins a clauseby- clause consideration of the report tomorrow, we urge all Nigerians to be vigilant and wary of those who would rather want the country continue to be run in the usual corruption-laden way, which put unmerited resources in individual pockets at the expense of the people.”

It will be recalled that shortly after the House panel presented its report a week ago indicting several oil industry players, there have been allegations, counter-allegations, claims and counter-claims on issues around the matter.

The 18 oil marketers have even threatened a legal battle with the House, claiming that the report of the lower chamber did not represent their contract with the Federal Government on subsidy of petroleum products. And one of the indicted petroleum marketers, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited, yesterday declared that it would not return a dime to the coffers of government because it was never overpaid at any time.

The marketer, which alleged in Abuja that the N13bn refund figure was cooked up by the House Committee however invited the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate and expose “how this dubious conclusion of refund of N13 billion was criminally smuggled into the report.”

In a statement yesterday by a team of counsel to the marketer, it said: “our client completely and totally repudiates and denies any allegation of wrongdoing in relation to the fuel subsidy reinforcements as they have always operated their oil trading business in an honest, transparent and open manner “There is no evidence that the company owes any refund at all to be made to the government, not to talk about the imaginary N13bn so glibly reproduced in the context of the offending House of Representatives Committee report.”

Meanwhile, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has urged the Federal Government to prosecute those indicted by the House of Representatives probe without further delay.

ASUU National President, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, lamented that the Lawan Farouk-led committee had strengthened the body’s earlier position that some individuals were just lining their pockets with public fund in the name of subsidy.

Awuzie, who briefed journalists at the end of ASUU National Executive Council meeting at the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti yesterday, described the reported stealing of over N1.6 trillion by oil firms and government officials between 2009 and 2011 under the guise of oil subsidy as a national shame that deserved punishment.

The union also said the conviction of former Delta Governor, Chief James Ibori, by a London court for corruption was an indictment of the Nigerian judicial system.

The dons made a case for the strengthening and refocusing of existing institutional frameworks for enforcing accountability, good and responsible leadership towards service delivery.

ASUU also expressed surprise that even the government- owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had become a pipeline to siphon the country’s resources, as over N310 billion was allegedly collected illegally by the corporation as subsidy on kerosene imports.

According to Awuzie, “the payment of this illegal huge amount was made to the NNPC and 126 firms and marketers as a socalled subsidy for inflated fuel imports or outright false claims for products that were not imported at all.

“Among the most shocking discovery by the House Committee was the payment of N1.9 billion to a waste disposal firm that had nothing to do with the importation of fuel. Another was the payment of N999 million 128 times within 24 hours by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation,” the union said.

Awuzie, who lamented the poor state of facilities in Nigerian universities based on recent assessment of the institutions, said less than 10 per cent of the agreement reached between ASUU and the Federal Government over a number of issues had been resolved.

According to him, the issue of 70 years as the retirement age for university dons was yet to be backed by law.

He explained that three years after the 2009 agreement, the government was yet to implement the expected increase in the funding of education and support to state universities in accordance with the provisions of Section 164 (1) of the Nigerian constitution among others.

He raised the alarm that with less than two months for ASUU and Federal Government to meet and review the process, government was yet to release the N100 billion emergency intervention fund agreed to in 2009.

 

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