From Azimazi Momoh Jimoh and Terhemba Daka, Abuja

 


Jonathan to get subsidy probe report in two weeks

THE House of Representatives’ debate of the fuel subsidy report yesterday slipped into bedlam following a failed attempt to seek the resignation of Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
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Minutes into yesterday’s session, a member of the House, Robinson Uwak, raised “Matters of Privilege” and informed the chamber that his constituents had accused the House of shielding the minister.

But before he could go further on the issue, Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, who led the session, swiftly asked Uwak “to approach the chair.”

After a few minutes of discussion in low tone, Uwak returned to his seat looking very dissatisfied.

Insisting on his motion, the lawmaker asked that a special recommendation be inserted in the report to compel Alison-Madueke to resign as Petroleum Minister for presiding over the reported fraud in the petroleum industry.

Uwak’s request was immediately greeted with thunderous applause by many members.

But the House Deputy Leader, Leo Ogor, drew the chamber’s attention to the premise that Uwak had breached the rule of procedure.

According to Ogor, since the House was yet to start the report’s consideration, it would be improper to entertain the motion proposed by Uwak.

This was supported by Ihedioha, who stated that Uwak erred and consequently ruled him out of order.

Explaining his action at the end of the session later, Uwak said that he tried to save the House from attracting criticisms to itself for the minister’s sake.

According to him, it was improper not to have a specific recommendation against the minister who had publicly admitted that there were lots of shady deals in the oil sector.

However, another member, Benjamin Aboho, came back with the same anti- Alison-Madueke motion a few minutes later insisting that there was need to amend the recommendations to accommodate the request for the minister’s resignation.

He specifically moved that recommendation 45 be amended to achieve this objective.

Aboho was equally overruled and the matter was never raised by any other member until the session ended.

Meanwhile, the House yesterday amended the aspect of the report, which indicted the former Accountant -General of the Federation and incumbent Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwabo.

Recommendation 43 of the report had stated: “The payment of N999,000,000 in 128 times within 24hrs (12th & 13th January, 2009) by the Office of the Accountant –General of the Federation should be further investigated by relevant Anti-Corruption Agencies.”

The lawmakers, after listening to three different letters on the issue from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and Dankwabo resolved to investigate only the PPPRA.

Chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Farouk Lawan, thereafter read the letter addressed to his committee by the CBN explaining that the withdrawal was sanctioned by the PPPRA and as such it would not be necessary to involve Dankwabo.

The clause was thereafter amended to read thus: “That the payment of N999,000,000 in 28 times within 24 hrs (12 and 13 January, 2009) by the PPPRA be further investigated by the relevant Anti-Corruption Agency.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has said that it would delay the submission of the report to the President for implementation until the Ad hoc Committee, concluded its meeting with the 17 oil firms that failed to attend the last public hearing.

Addressing the media on the development after yesterday’ session, the Chairman House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Zakari Mohammed, said: “The report will not be sent to the Presidency in piece-meal until the second one comes in and is harmonised. The report will also be sent to the Senate for guidance, the AGF and the various anti-corruption agencies.”

The House also approved the recommendation that: “The services of the accounting firm of Akintola Williams, Deloitte and Olusola Adekanola & Partners should be discontinued with immediate effect for professional negligence” and added that an independent accounting firm be appointed.

Other key recommendations of the committee adopted yesterday included:

• The National Assembly should enact an Act to criminalise extra- budgetary expenditure.

• CBN and the Federal Ministry of Finance should critically examine and review the policy guiding payment for importation of petroleum products to avoid the current fraudulent system that allows importers to bring in products from offshore ‘Lome’ or ‘Cotonou’ to qualify for forex payments.

• The Committee notes that several alarms were raised by the CBN on the escalation of subsidy figures but these early warning signals were ignored by relevant agencies. The Committee wishes to encourage whistle -blowing by regulatory agencies on threats to the economy with the hope that proactive measures could be taken.

• The Committee recommends that the PPMC Management be overhauled. In furtherance to above recommendations of the committee, institutional mechanisms be urgently developed to ensure the monitoring of actual delivery of kerosene to the Nigerian masses.

• The PPMC should deploy modern, state-of-the-art devices to protect its facilities and pipelines to eliminate wastages arising from vandalism. In the short-term however, PPMC should establish a surveillance system, which should incorporate Community-protection and using part of the bridging funds on the PSF Template to finance this.

• All the extant circulars preventing the Nigeria Customs Service from carrying out its statutory functions be immediately withdrawn by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Finance.

• The Committee recommends that NNPC takes immediate action to pay the N46 billion owed the Nigeria Customs Service and the N6 billion owed to the Nigerian Ports Authority

• The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should be encouraged within a timeframe to improve on the draught level of the Nigerian waters to encourage the berthing of ALL types of vessels so as to eliminate the present ship-to-ship (STS) transfers by importers of petroleum products.

• All those in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Office of the Director-General Budget, and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation involved in the extra budgetary expenditure under the PSF Scheme (2009-2011) should be sanctioned in accordance with the Civil Service Rules and the Code of Conduct Bureau.

• The regulatory capacity of the DPR should be strengthened. The National Assembly should commence the process of amending the Act to make the Agency autonomous.

• The DPR 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.

• The DPR should brace up to its role of regulation and compel the NNPC/PPMC to comply with all the regulations issued to ensure transparency and accountability.

 

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