•To investigate Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, Buhari’s tenures
•Whistle-blowers to be rewarded
From Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources, compromising Upstream, Downstream and Gas, has announced the commencement of the probe of alleged N10 trillion-subsidy fraud by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and independent marketers in the country.
According to the joint committee chairman, Senator Kabiru Marafa, the probe will look into subsidy spend on importation of petroleum products from 2006 to date. Senator Tayo Alaosoadura, who heads Upstream and Senator Albert Bassey Akpan, who chairs Gas, will co-chair the probe.
The probe will cover the tenures of three former presidents, namely, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan. As President, Obasanjo served as the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources for almost eight years.
The late President Yar’Adua also served in that capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources. Jonathan on the other hand, relinquished the position. Currently, President Buhari serves in that capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources, while Ibe Kachikwu holds sway as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. Senator Melaye, had in a point of order on Tuesday, drawn the attention of the Senate to the refusal of the Federal Government to probe the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which he said got 51 out of 100 per cent share of companies sanctioned to import petroleum products into the country.
Senator Dino Melaye, who heads the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) committee, had said all the oil marketers currently facing trial over alleged subsidy fraud only constitute 49 per cent of those who import refined products.
He had said: “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.
“This has never been looked at 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.”
President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, had while speaking on the issue, mandated its Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) to exhaustively review and investigate the NNPC over its accounts, relating to fuel subsidy and the abuse of product marketing and distribution between 2006 and 2016.
Charging the Senate committee on Petroleum (Downstream) to conduct a holistic investigation, Saraki had said: “A situation where individuals do what they like and are not accountable to anybody should be stopped. The committee should do a thorough job and ensure that they get to the root of this issue. The thing borders on the issue of corruption, which has been affecting the country negatively.”
But Marafa, alongside Alaosoadura and Akpan, while addressing Senate Correspondents at the weekend, said contrary to the earlier revelation made by Senator Melaye that about N5.3 trillion was mismanaged by NNPC, the alleged sum currently stands at about N10 trillion.
The trio said the NNPC got about N5.3 trillion within the period, while independent marketers received 3.8 trillion. They revealed that an outstanding debt of about N600 billion owed to independent marketers was part of the total N10 trillion.
Marafa, who read a prepared speech on behalf of others, said: “I want to announce that our committee is to embark on a unique journey of enquiry that will lead to a better understanding of how NNPC performs its commercial downstream petroleum product purchase, supply, distribution and payment functions for and on behalf of Nigerians.
“NNPC is the custodian of resources for and on behalf of every Nigerian. NNPC has been responsible for anything from 51- 100 per cent of Nigeria’s imported products, yet has failed to justify satisfaction the N5.3 trillion spent on subsidy importation of petroleum products from 2006 till date.
“This sum is in addition to the revenues NNPC receives from sales of 445 barrel per day domestic crude allocation. It is, therefore, essential that we Nigerians better understand and that NNPC when called upon by our committee, is able to properly account for and provide clarity under scrutiny to questions we are about to ask.” To this end, the committee has summoned past and present executives of NNPC responsible for purchasing, financing, transportation and certification of products sold to Nigeria.
Local Oil Companies (LOCs) and International Oil Companies (IOCs) are also expected to appear with relevant documents to corroborate their business activities. The joint committee added that in the event that chief executives of LOCs and IOCs fail to cooperate with the Senate, adequate sanctions would be applied. The joint committee heads told newsmen that they would be implementing their own whistle-blower platform.
He said Nigerians, who were willing to provide useful information would be rewarded.
Marafa, specifically revealed that the committee had already unearthed a major fraud, involving the disappearance of 100 million litres of fuel, purportedly stored on behalf of NNPC by two companies.
Although he failed to disclose the identity of the two companies involved, he said further investigations by his committee would result in the discovery of many ugly incidents of missing petroleum products.
The commencement date for the subsidy probe is yet to be announced by the committee.