Farouk Lawan’s absence raises concerns
ALLEGATIONS that the leadership of the House of Representatives was manipulating its investigation on petroleum products subsidy for political gains have generated concerns in the House of Representatives.
But the House’s spokesman has described the allegations as untrue and purely speculative.
The denial came on the heels of speculations that the leadership had seized the report of its ad-hoc committee, which conducted the investigation with a view to effecting some changes.
Chairman of the committee, Farouk Lawal, had last month explained the delay in submitting the report hinging it on conflicting information from oil firms.
In an interview with The Guardian yesterday, spokesman of the House, Zakari Mohammed, said:
“No! no!! no!!!, the leadership has no hand in that. The entire investigation has been done by the committee and the leadership has deliberately kept away from their operations.
“There is also no truth in the insinuation that the investigation is being manipulated to target any administration. The interest of the House is strictly that of the general public and the revival of the economy. There is no intention to hit at anybody politically or otherwise”
Mohammed also said that media publications on the report were mere speculations.
It however said the ad-hoc committee which conducted the investigation might submit its report before the end of the week.
But explaining why the report was not presented yesterday, he declared that “the House never said the report would be presented today (Tuesday). But what I can say is that possibly before the end of the week, the ad-hoc committee might present its report”
Meanwhile, the absence of the chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Farouk Lawal, from the National Assembly raised further concerns in the House.
Some lawmakers feared that further delay in presenting the report could send signals that the House might sweep the report under the carpet.
It was gathered that the there might be some eleventh hour changes in the report following outcries generated by series of speculations about its recommendations.
Although, the leadership of the House had consistently denied any interference with the investigation, it had been alleged that the House leadership was in a plot with other politicians to use the investigation to spite some political interests.
A group called the South South Caucus had in a statement raised doubts about the real intentions of the probe.
The Coordinator of the Caucus, David Osaro, said: “The North wants to use the House of Representatives probe to bring down Jonathan’s government.
“It has become very clear that the current House of Representatives probe of the petroleum industry and the deregulation of the downstream sector is nothing but a subtle plot by the North to discredit and ultimately bring down the Jonathan administration.
“It is very evident that in order to achieve their aim, the North quickly cashed in on the fuel subsidy removal issue, and due to its sensitivity, everything was put in place to actualise their plans of truncating this administration. Otherwise, how else do you explain the fact that a probe into the activities of the oil industry should have predated the current administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan?
“Even more curious is the fact that similar probes in the past have not yielded anything that the ordinary Nigerian can be proud of, both in terms of findings and implementation of probe reports. Ordinarily, it would have been taken for granted that the House of Representatives panel may find nothing actually incriminating against the current government of Mr. President but the manner in which the House is going about it truly leaves much to be desired, in terms of its sincerity.
“If tradition is also anything to go by, it may be pertinent to state that the North is trying to use the House of Representatives to achieve its plan of shifting the power equation back to the North. If this were not the case, how then do you rationalise the failure of the House to actually extend the probe to also include the oil industry from 2009 till date?”
Another group, the Southern Defenders Front (SDF), a coalition of political movements in Nigeria, also alleged that the report of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the Management of Petrol Subsidy has deliberately been skewed against certain officials of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration so as to discredit him over the 2015 general election.
In a statement in Lagos signed by its president, Dr Josiah Ohiwerei, and the secretary, Chief Kola Soyombo, the group said: “The contents of the report, which have been leaked in the last 24 hours to two leading newspapers to help mobilize support for a secret agenda, were politically motivated.
“The target is obviously President Jonathan, whom a few self serving elements with a sense of entitlement to the national leadership, want to stop by all means possible if he should indicate interest in running for the presidency in the next polls.
“These vested interests are engaged in this most immoral enterprise in the name of fighting for a certain region, ironically the same region they have over the decades impoverished through mind boggling corruption, kleptomania and anti-people policies.
“It is curious that the House ad hoc committee should be keenly interested in how the payments for the subsidy were made from only 2009, whereas the national swindle called petrol subsidy has gone on for well over three years.”
The front observed that the report should cover even the pre-Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA)era because it was the glaring inefficiency and graft inherent in the importation regime that led the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo government to set the PPPRA, saying that it is regrettable that the agency soon became part of the problem.
The SDF noted that the Jonathan government should be praised for daring to end the subsidy regime which its predecessors, far from having the courage to stop, sustained because it enabled them to enrich friends, family members, political allies and a few other people to the detriment of several millions of honest Nigerians.
It said that aspects of the House report leaked to the press “have gone a long way to confirm the widely held view that leading members of the House ad hoc committee have long been after certain public office holders.
“Even while the committee was still conducting public hearings on the management of the subsidy, some members went to disclose to the press secretly that the ad hoc committee had already recommended the removal of predetermined officials.”
The SDF said that, contrary to the impression that “the faceless committee members want to create about the possible expenditure of 240billion naira in 2011 on fuel imports of 2009, the Jonathan government deserves commendation for recognizing that government everywhere in the world is a continuum.”
It added: “Only a myopic government can refuse to fulfill contractual obligations entered into by its predecessor and executed before the extant government came into being.
“Therefore, it is a remarkable departure from the way things are done in Nigeria that the Jonathan administration paid last year for contracts executed under the Musa Yar’Adua leadership three years ago.
“After all, it is morally indefensible to owe businesses for as long as three years after a job has satisfactorily been done.
“The 2011 payment for 2009 imports under a contract executed by a different government is a lesson in statesmanship.”
However, the ad-hoc committee had hinted that it would make recommendations that could reverse the negative trends in the Petroleum sector.
Lawan had said that some of the recommendations would require amendments of some existing laws while others would require some actions by the executive arm of government.