By BEN AGANDE, Henry Umoru, EMMAN OVUAKPORIE & Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJA- PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan said yesterday that those indicted in the report of the House of Representatives Committee that investigated the implementation of the subsidy regime in Nigeria will be punished. He vowed that no one will be spared.
The House which called for the prosecution of former PPPRA boss, Ahmadu Ali over his alleged role in the subsidy scam has also received the backing of the ruling party which promised to continue to encourage the National Assembly in its efforts to stamp out corruption.
President Jonathan who spoke through his Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi during a press briefing yesterday, vowed to ensure that every rot in the oil sector was cleared no matter how highly placed the person may be.When asked if President Jonathan, or the Presidency was not disturbed by the outcome of the report, Senator Emodi answered thus: “No, no, no, no. Mr. President ab initio initiated the move to rid the petroleum industry of the rot because the bane of this society today, the bane of maladministration in the petroleum sector is nothing, but corruption.
“The fact that he appointed a person like Mallam Nuhu Ribadu to head another panel looking into the rot is a clear manifestation that Mr. President is determined to rid the sector of corruption, he is not going to spare anybody, if not why would he go and appoint Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the ex-EFCC chairman and his very rival in the last presidential election? I am sure that he is not going to spare anybody found wanting and there are no moves to distort the report. I am the Special Adviser to Mr President on National Assembly Matters, any slightest moves here of course, I would be the channel. You know it. So I am sure that no move is being made and Mr. President has zero tolerance for corruption.
Nobody will interfere with probe report
“So, I can assure you that nobody is going to interfere with the report but you have to look at the people he selected to look into the rot in the system – men and women of proven integrity. As this one is happening here another investigative panel is also taking place in the executive arm. Mr President is on the same page with the members of the National Assembly to rid the society especially the oil sector of the rot”.
According to her, “the investigation undertaken by the House of Representatives into the utilization of the petroleum subsidies is commendable. It is in line with the Federal government’s anti-graft war in the petroleum industry.
“The Executive and the legislative arms of government are on the same page on the issue and would collaborate towards ensuring that any rot in the sector is fully addressed.
“The issues that led to the investigation predated President Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration. The President is poised to sanitize the oil sector and give it new breadth of life through enhanced probity, transparent governance and zero corruption.
“So, it is a wrong claim in some quarters of uneasiness in the administration over the recommendations of the House ad-hoc committee on the utilization of petroleum subsidies.
“In fact, such sharp practices in the oil sector were part of the reasons President Goodluck Jonathan moved against fuel subsidy in the first instance and directed the then Minister of Finance, Olusegun Aganga to engage an internationally recognized Audit Company to investigate the rot in the sector and KPMG was retained for the purpose. This was overtaken by the more comprehensive industry wide investigation now headed by the erstwhile Chairman of EFCC and Presidential candidate of the ACN, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. Is this not a clear manifestation of President Jonathan’s determination and genuineness to fight corruption and reduce it to zero level?
“Mr President’s sincere desire of enthroning probity was clearly manifested by his choice of men of integrity to be involved and he did not mind crossing the partisan barrier to get his opponent in the Presidential election to lead the investigation. So, it is not surprising that the President should welcome what the House members have done and he is on the same page on the issues.”
House deliberation of the report
Meanwhile, further efforts by some members of the House of Representatives yesterday to push for specific indictment of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Deziani Allison Maduekwe for her role in the utilization of the Subsidy regime were defeated even as the House adopted the recommendations of the Faruk Lawan-led committee that investigated the management of the Subsidy funds by the federal government.
At the resumed consideration of the report of the committee yesterday, the House also exonerated the former Accountant General of the Federation and incumbent governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo as a letter from both the governor and the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to the House exonerated him of any wrong doing and placed the blame on the door steps of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.
The committee had alleged in its report that the Accountant General had authorized the payment of N999,000,000, 128 times within 24 hours and recommended that relevant anti corruption agencies should investigate the transaction.
The House also resolved to forward its report to President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate and other relevant anti-corruption agencies for their information and necessary actions.
Yesterday’s session was rather tempestuous as some members expressed reservations over the non-indictment of the Minister.
House rejects call to indict Minister
Raising a point of privilege, Hon. Robinson Uwah informed the House that after Tuesday’s session, he had received several calls from Nigerians including his constituents who he alleged accused him and the House of protecting the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
He therefore called for the resignation of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, a suggestion that drew wide support from members who apparently shared his opinion.
However, the Deputy House Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor countered that the point of order raised by Hon. Uwah was out of procedure as the House had not finished deliberation on the report of the committee.
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha who again presided over the committee of the whole cautioned that after doing a wonderful job, the House cannot be seen to be out on a witch hunt of persons.
His ruling not withstanding, another member of the House, Hon. Benjamin Aboho later raised the matter and insisted that the Minister of Petroleum Resources should be specifically indicted for her failure to properly monitor how the subsidy regime was utilized. He was again ruled out of order.
Highlights of the recommendations
Highlights of the recommendations adopted by the House yesterday were that the committee on Petroleum Down stream should conduct an extensive and thorough investigation into the operations of the Petroleum Equalization funds Management Board in order to ascertain the management of the bridging funds under the subsidy regime.
The House also approved that the services of the Accounting Firms, Akintola Willaims, Deloitte and Olusola Adekanola and Partners should be discontinued with immediate effect for professional negligence on this particular assignment and the firm be further investigated and prosecuted. It was also approved that the two firms be blacklisted from being engaged by any federal Ministry, Department or Agency for a period of three years.
On the activities of the Pipelines Products Marketing Company, the House approved the recommendation that its management should be overhauled while institutional mechanism be urgently developed to ensure the monitoring of actual delivery of Kerosene to Nigerian masses.
It also called on the PPMC to deploy modern state of the art devices to protect its facilities and pipelines to eliminate wastages arising from vandalism. In the short term, the House noted that PPMC should establish a surveillance system which should incorporate community protection and using part of the bridging funds on the petroleum Support funds template to finance.
Other recommendations include:
*That the NNPC takes immediate action to pay the N46 billion owed the Nigeria Customs Service and the N6billion owed to the Nigeria Ports Authority.
*That the failure of the Nigerian Ports Authority to provide the committee the vital vessel data particularly the IMO numbers is an indication that either Nigerian Ports Authority has a very poor record keeping system or that it was a deliberate ploy to cover up the collusion between its officials and importers. We recommend an investigation into the operations and activities of this authority.
*That the Department of Petroleum Resources should take immediate steps to bring all facilities and depot owners into compliance with international best practices by ensuring the installation of modern metering gadgets and sealable and non-return valves, to eliminate the rampant cases of round tripping.
*That the department of Petroleum Resources should brace up to its role of regulation and compel the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation/Pipeline Products Marketing Company to comply with all regulations issued to ensure transparency and accountability
*That in order to reduce and gradually eliminate lightering, associated inefficiency and cost, government should invest in the provision of single point monitoring. This provision should be followed up by instituting regulations to compel owners of jetties, depots and storage facility owners to develop pipeline throughout availability to facilitate direct delivery of imported products by heavy vessels inshore in Nigeria.
Speaking after the adoption of the report, chairman of the committee, Hon. Farouk Lawan thanked the leadership of the House of Representatives for the opportunity given to members of the committee to serve, pointing out that in carrying out its assignment, the committee was fair to all the parties involved.
He however warned that those indicted in the report are likely to take up the gauntlet against the report and members of the House, while appealing to Nigerians to fight for the protection of truth and sanity in the country.
Also speaking on some of the controversy surrounding the call for the Minister of Petroleum to resign, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon Zakari Mohammed said the recommendation that the management of NNPC should be overhauled addressed the issue of the minister. According to him the minister is the chairman of the board of NNPC and therefore it was wrong to insinuate that she was exonerated, adding that the objective of the report was not to witch hunt anybody but to state facts as they are.