Senate to probe alleged N5.1 trillion subsidy fraud in NNPC
• Investigates illegal importation of firearms
The Senate is set to probe the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) over claims that it mismanaged about N5.1 trillion it got as subsidy funds between 2006 and 2015.
While raising a point of order, Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West), drew the attention of the Senate to the refusal of the presidency to probe the nation’s oil corporation, which he said got 51 per cent share of companies approved to import petroleum products into the country.
The N5.1 trillion allegedly mismanaged is about 70 per cent of the N7.298 trillion national budget of 2017 and out of which the government plans to borrow N2.32 trillion. If this amount is recovered, it would help in funding government projects. The amount of money allegedly mismanaged shows that the nation does not lack revenue to execute projects and programmes that could improve the wellbeing of the citizens. What it lacks is the effective management of the revenue. Also, the planned probe will lend credence to the anti-corruption campaign since the NNPC which is the nation’s cash cow is considered to be a nerve centre of corruption.
According to Melaye, all the oil marketers currently facing trial over alleged subsidy fraud are only responsible for 49 per cent of imported refined products.
He said: “Surprisingly you (the Senate President, Bukola Saraki) are one of those who raised the issue of subsidy in the Seventh Senate. The Federal Government is prosecuting marketers and these marketers only constitute 49 per cent of imported refined products. The NNPC is responsible for the importation of 51 per cent.
“While we are prosecuting the independent marketers whose proceed from subsidy is about N3.83 trillion, NNPC collected a total of N5.1 trillion on subsidy and this has never been investigated and we are busy chasing independent marketers. The time to look at the books of NNPC as regards petroleum subsidy is now.
“We have taken the lead in the fight against corruption in this chamber and I want to say we must do everything within our powers to investigate and bring whoever is found wanting to book.”
Saraki gave nod to the plea by Melaye, who had sought the permission of the chamber to sponsor a motion today. “Thank you Senator Melaye for that radical performance,” Saraki said.
He added: “Melaye, we expect this motion tomorrow (today) and it is a very serious issue. It goes to the core of the fight against corruption and also the issue of NNPC which is a great source of revenue for all of us. We will wait for that motion today.”
Also yesterday, the Upper Chamber urged the Federal Government to urgently pay the N2 trillion owed local contractors.The debts, the Senate noted, are those owed contractors operating in the oil and gas sector, as well as others in the pharmaceutical industry.
During a debate on the motion sponsored by Oluremi Tinubu, Saraki warned that the inability of the Federal Government to repay its debts would adversely affect the economy.
“The inability of the government to pay its debts will have serious effects on our economy. I know that the Federal Government is making efforts to ensure that they pay their debts. That is why they are trying to raise international bonds. I urge them to hurry up so they can pay these debts,” he said.
Adopting the motion, titled “The urgent need for the Federal Government to redeem local contractors’ debts,” the lawmakers expressed worry that the inability of the government to repay the debts is already negatively affecting the economy.
Tinubu said any further delay in servicing these debts might adversely affect business organisations operating in the country, especially banks, owing to the fact that many businesses are indebted to the financial organisations.
“The inability to repay subsisting bank loans may affect the purchasing power of petroleum marketers, thus creating scarcity of petroleum products.“I am further concerned about the alleged failure to pay debts owed to pharmaceutical companies and the impact this may have on the health sector.
“The data released by the Debt Management Office put Nigeria’s domestic debt as at June 30, 2016 at over N10 trillion. Local contractors debt is estimated to amount to an additional N2 trillion.
“Settling these local debts will ensure that affected businesses stay afloat through an increase in the circulation of money in order to bring the current economic recession to an end,” Tinubu explained.
Jibrin Barau said if contractors were paid their debts, it would enable them to repay their loans to banks. He said in turn, banks would be able to give more loans to business owners.
Magnus Abe warned that a repeat of what happened in the past, when banks owed huge debts and went under, must be avoided. He noted that families who were affected by these huge debts were unable to meet their daily obligations. Shehu Sani said as the chairman of the Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, he had been inundated with calls from local contractors.
Meanwhile, Saraki has ordered chairmen of all the standing committees to submit the final copies of budgets of agencies under their purview to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje.
Saraki who made the announcement during plenary, said the final copies of the reports must be submitted on or before Friday, 3rd of March, 2017.
The Senate also yesterday directed its Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff to investigate the recent illegal importation of 661 sophisticated weapons into the country, and other related offences as well as identify the importers and their collaborators irrespective of their status in the society.
The probe according to the upper legislative chamber must be extended to the reported cases of December 2016 when the customs, Tin Can Island command, intercepted a cache of arms, ammunition and military gadgets smuggled into the country from the United States as well as several other incidents of interception of ammunition in concealed containers at different ports. The probe will include a recent shocking discovery of a large quantity of ammunition abandoned at the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Ltd., NAHCO, Lagos.
The committee was mandated along with that on Interior, to examine all the processes involved in importation of goods and ascertain also who does what and how, in the said process with a view to determining whether the process and its operators are effective, efficient and of required standards.
These resolutions were sequel to a motion titled “Urgent need to stem the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Nigeria” moved by Hope Uzodinma (PDP Imo West), in which he noted that the influx of illegal small arms and light weapons into the country was a threat to the peace and security of the country.