Posted by News Express | 12 February 2021 | 412 times
By Tony Akowe, Abuja
The Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari again failed to appear before the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts to defend several audit queries bothering on illegal withdrawals and mismanagement of public funds contained in a report of the Auditor General of the Federation.
Chairman of the Committee, Wole Oke (PDP, Osun) said this was the 10th time the NNPC helmsman was failing to appear before the constitutional committee, while ordering that he cause appearance unfailingly within seven day.
Oke appealed to angry members to give the NNPC boss the last chance to appear before the committee to defend the audit query against the organization failure which, they will be compelled to conclude that the allegations of mismanagement of public funds levelled against them were true.
The NNPC Group Managing Director was expected to appear before the Public Account Committee on Thursday to defend series of audit queries against the corporation, but at the resumed sitting of the committee, the NNPC again failed to show up.
In a letter addressed to the Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts with ref. GGM/GPAD/08 and signed by the Group General Manager, Public Affairs, Dr. K.A. Obatelu, said the GMD was not able to honour the invitation as a result of a critical and time bound operational matter.
The letter reads in part “we wish to reassure the leadership of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the NNPC holds it in very high regard and esteem. However, we regret the inability of the GMD to attend the meeting scheduled for February 11, 2021 due to a pre-scheduled critical and time bound operational matter.
“In view of the current circumstance as stated above, we kindly request that the meeting be rescheduled.”
Oke’s information that “the NNPC has written us again for the tenth time to seek deferment and ask for another date” apparently awaken the anger in the members who took turn to accuse the corporation of undermining the parliament.
Hon. Solomon Maren (PDP, Plateau) said the parliament cannot continue to sit back and watch agencies of government ignore invitations at will, adding that the House must rise up and defend its name.
He said “for an agency of government will continuously evade appearance before the Public Accounts Committee is unacceptable. I think it is time this committee exerts its power so that it will no longer be looked upon as a toothless bulldog.
“This is the time we should be able to rise above every sentiment and do the needful by ensuring that NNPC which is the collecting body of government revenue from the oil and gas sector is accountable. If they are not accountable to us, to whom will they be accountable?
“This is the time we must do the needful and arise to say you have deferred on too many occasion. Ten times is too much and this committee must rise up and say this is unacceptable and it will no longer be cordoned. We need to rise and do what is right in the interest of this nation.
“The local government councils are in shamble because we cannot account for how revenue is collected on their behalf. Many states are owing salaries of their staff because we cannot account for the revenue we are collecting on their behalf.
“Even the implementation of the budget has never gone beyond 70 percent and I am sure it is because the funds are not enough to fund the budget. Also, the federal government is borrowing huge sums of money to fund the budget and augment the deficit.
“For God sake, it is the tenth time that they are not appearing. When will they appear? Are we going to continue to cordon this? They will continue to find excuse not to appear until the lifespan of this 9th assembly expires”.
On his part, Hon. Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun) said agencies like the NNPC should not be allowed to undermine the efforts of the parliament to ensure transparency and accountability, especially when President Muhammadu Buhari rode on the mantra of fight against corruption to power.
Salam said “democracy thrives where there is respect for the rule of law and where there is respect for institutions of government. It is not in the mouth of a body set up by law. NNPC is a creation of this parliament and not a creation of itself. It is not in the mouth of that institution to refuse to respect the institution that has been granted the power by the laws of this nation to invite them to account.
“This country is bleeding. Financially, we are bleeding and this is the institution that is saddled with the management of one of our greatest resources. If they will not open themselves to accountability, I wonder what kind of example they are setting for other institutions of government.
“Apart from the fact that this committee is saddled with that power by the constitution, it is also acting in pursuant to a report from the Auditor General of the federation. President Muhammadu Buhari rode into office in one of the mantra which is that of fighting corruption and ensures that this country is runned as an accountable institution.
“So, if the NNPC that has been indicted by a report from the Auditor General’s office refuses to come to parliament render its account and defend that report, it is high time we rise as a parliament to ask that sanctions be applied. I agreed that the letter authored and sent here should be rejected having not signed by the Chief Executive Officer.
“We should also call for appropriate sanction and order that the GMD be brought before this parliament. We have the power as a committee to order that he be brought here before the parliament pursuant to the constitution and the Legislative privileges Act.
“I want to suggest that we wield the big stick so that all institutions of government will know that we mean business here which is to entrench transparency and accountability in the management of the funds of this country.”
Also contributing, Hon. Victor Mela Danzaria (APC, Gombe) expressed disappointment over the attitude of the NNPC, pointing out that members of the parliament will continue to defend the interest of Nigerians. (The Nation)
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