Posted by News Express | 14 February 2014 | 4,536 times
It was a day of anger and fury yesterday in Abuja at the resumed public hearing held by the Senate Committee on Finance on the missing billions of dollars oil revenue.
At the receiving end were the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its supervising minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, the Petroleum Minister.
At the hearing chaired by committee chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, both Alison-Madueke and NNPC GMD, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, had admitted that NNPC spent part of the funds declared unaccounted for by Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi but angered the senators by trying to justify the expenditure. Sanusi’s position is that every revenue is supposed to first go to the Federation Account and that NNPC was yet to pay $20 billion (equivalent N3.25 trillion) out of oil revenue realised from January 2012 to July 2013 into the Federation Account.
While Sanusi stuck to his guns at yesterday’s public hearing, NNPC insisted that all the money had been accounted for and that the unremitted $10.8 billion was for kerosene subsidy, pipeline maintenance, product losses and other operation costs. The NNPC position was supported by Allison-Madueke, who claimed that the corporation did not violate any law in deducting the $10.8 billion at source. She claimed that Nigeria and even the entire West Africa would have collapsed if NNPC did not continue with the kerosene subsidy regime despite presidential orders for its discontinuation.
The senators did not find this funny at all, condemning payment of kerosene subsidy without appropriation by the National Assembly. Senator Isa Galaudu (PDP, Kebbi) accused Mrs. Alison-Madueke of usurping the powers of the National Assembly by deducting monies at source instead of remitting to the Federation Account.
Another member of the committee, Senator Adamu Gumba (PDP, Bauchi) said: “This illegality must be stopped. NNPC should have gone back to the president to reverse the directive. If we stop the subsidy nothing will happen. Why are you saying that the country will collapse if we stop the subsidy? Stop it, let’s see what will happen. NNPC is also usurping presidential powers.”
Summarising proceedings at the end of the investigative hearing that lasted several hours, Committee Chairman Makarfi pointedly warned that expenditure outside the federal budget must be stopped. He noted that the whole world was watching and that spending money without appropriation in a democracy would tarnish Nigeria’s image internationally.
“The implication of spending money that is not appropriated is well known to everybody and the whole world is hearing this. I don’t want us to joke or play with this. It is the most central issue. All agencies that have spoken have confirmed to the whole world that this money was not appropriated and I want people to absorb the import of this confirmation,” Makarfi said.
The committee agreed with the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, that the only way to know the truth on the unremitted funds is to conduct an independent forensic audit of NNPC accounts. Makarfi told the finance ministry to conduct an independent forensic audit of the NNPC’s kerosene subsidy claims within a month.
The committee meanwhile invited the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, to appear before it next Thursday, February 20, to give legal opinion on the controversies over the allegedly missing billions.
•Photo courtesy The Nation shows Allison-Madueke and NNPC GMD Andrew Yakubu sandwiched by journalists after the senate hearing . . . yesterday in Abuja.
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