Fred Itua, Abuja
An alleged non-remittance of N177 billion operational surplus by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) into the consolidated federation account has torn members of the Senate apart.
The disagreement, which erupted yesterday among the senators came up when a member of the Senate Committee on Marine Transport overseeing NPA’s operations, Senator Mohammed Hassan, drew the attention of the Senate to it in a motion anchored on Senate Standing Orders 42 and 52.
Hassan, while moving the motion, submitted that against the spirits and provisions of the 1999 Constitution and extant laws of the NPA, the agency kept to itself N177 billion operational surplus it made from accruing revenues in the 2017 fiscal year, without remitting it into the Federation Account.
According to him, the committee discovered that the agency in its budget defence of the performance of the 2017 budget last April got N303 billion as total operational revenue out of which N125 billion was taken by it as operational cost as allowed by extant laws, but refused to remit the balance of N177 billion realised as surplus into the federation account.
“This, to me, and by extension, the Senate, should not be condoned because the committee discovered this seven months ago and ordered the agency to do the needful, which it has not done up till now.
“Attention of the Senate is being drawn to this impunity because six months down the line, the agency has not complied with the directive of the committee or communicated to it on the matter in anyway,” he said.
But the Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, cautioned the Senate against relying on the allegation made by Hassan.
According to him, there are three categories of income derivable into accounts of any public agency.
He advised the Senate that it would be premature for it to attach legislative seriousness to Senator Hassan’s allegation since the figures he quoted were not clear to be in the category of perceived income, derived income or accrued income.
“Mr. President, as a lawyer, I studied taxation law. We should not be in haste to conclude on the submission Senator Hassan has just made,” he said.
Senator Hassan’s allegation against NPA was further kicked against when the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Marine Transport, Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, dissociated himself and other committee members from the allegation.
According to him, Hassan as a member of the committee, did not raise such an issue at any of the committee’s sittings before raising the alarm on the floor of the Senate.
“As Chairman of the committee, am not aware of this allegation raised against NPA by Senator Hassan and I don’t think any other member of the committee is aware as well “, he said .
Apparently to avoid further disagreement among the committee members on the alleged N177bn scam, Senator
Mao Ohuabunwa, in his contributions, urged the Senate leadership to compel the committee members to meet over it in before bringing it up for general debate on the floor of the Senate in line with procedures and process of law making .
Consequently, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki directed the committee chairman to meet with the entire members on the allegation and report back within three days.