Reps tie rapport with Executive to action on findings
Labour insists N65 per litre still realistic
David-West, others want Okonjo-Iweala, Alison-Madueke fired
LAMENTATIONS, fury, and cautious optimism yesterday greeted the report of the House of Representatives’ Ad-Hoc Committee on fuel subsidy management.
Displaying their anger over the panel’s findings, the citizens and groups simply said: “They have killed this country! Nothing will come out of the report because they (leaders) are involved.”
But the optimists among them asked President Goodluck Jonathan to prove that he can bite by bringing all the culprits to book.
And hope that the report might not end up in the dustbin was raised by the Lower House, which declared yesterday that “the timely execution of the report will determine its next relationship with the Executive arm of government.”
However, groups and eminent citizens, who reacted to the startling revelations in the report and its recommendations that certain persons be prosecuted, said they were not surprised about the well-orchestrated corruption in the scheme.
According to them, it had long become clear to them that the subsidy policy and frequent increase in fuel prices were indiscreet and designed to further emasculate the poor by the rich in the corridors of power.
Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof. Tam David-West, the African Network for the Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), oil workers, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said the proper thing for President Jonathan to do now, was to fire the incumbent Ministers of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and his Finance counterpart, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and prosecute other indicted officials.
They argued that with the high-level of graft in the subsidy regime, which the ministers presided, they were no longer fit to keep their offices.
In its report to the Whole House on Wednesday, the Farouk Lawan-led panel, among others had indicted the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC), Pipelines Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), the Budget Office, the Accountant-General of the Federation, three audit firms, marketers over the fraud in the subsidy scheme.
The panel proposed that the NNPC, PPPRA, and other marketers refund N1.1 trillion to the Federation Account, which they fraudulently appropriated to themselves.
Briefing journalists at the National Assembly on the report, Spokesman of the Lower Chamber, Zakari Mohammed, declared that the House would insist that the recommendations of the committee, when adopted, be fully implemented by the Executive arm of government.
On how the House would compel the Executive to do so, Zakari said the Lower Chamber would make the implementation of the report a pre-condition for taking legislative action on any request from the Executive.
He said: “We shall use all our legislative powers to ensure that after adoption, the report sees the light of the day. It is simple. You know that there are certain things that the Executive needs from the Legislature from time to time. We will make it a pre-condition that unless this is done, we won’t do this. So what are we talking about? The law itself is an ass. We can take it from any angle.”
Also yesterday, Lawan disclosed that there were attempts by undisclosed government officials, oil marketers and other parties to truncate the probe.
“They tried to reach out to some of us but when that failed, some of them did not come.
“There were so many pressure from government officials and marketers who wanted to reach us through some of our colleagues. If we had compromised we wouldn’t have had the courage to ask them the questions we asked them,” Lawan said.
Workers on the platform of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said the report had confirmed their insistence that the fuel subsidy regime was superfluous and demanded the prosecution of all persons and organisations indicted by the Farouk Lawan-led panel.
NLC said the committee merely scratched the corruption in the oil sector on the surface and asked the government to start the probe of the industry from 1999 when the country returned to civil rule.
Labour urged the government to summon the political will and bring the culprits of the sleaze to book.
The Congress in a statement in Abuja, said the findings of the panel merely re-echoed what it had been saying that the subsidy policy had been abused.
It declared: “The report also vindicates the position the NLC stated on December 20, 2011 before President Jonathan. The NLC had at that meeting in the Presidential Villa alleged fraud in the subsidy regime and the manipulation of figures in a presentation made by the Minister of Finance.”
NLC said in the midst of the manipulation, it was never given the opportunity to present its facts to President Jonathan at a re-scheduled meeting, which was never held.
The Abdulwaheed Omar-led Labour movement declared that it was not enough for the NNPC and PPPRA to simply refund the stolen money but individuals found culpable must be punished in a “commensurate manner.
“Some of the findings of the House panel show clear indication of criminality, therefore it is not enough for private and public organisations like the NNPC and PPPRA to be asked to make refunds. The government has a duty to bring the officers of such organisations and their supervisors to justice,” Labour said.
The Labour argued that the massive looting in the subsidy regime clearly indicated that N65 per litre of fuel was still profitable and that the cost of refining was indeed lower than the old N65 pump price.
It stressed: “The massive looting of the subsidy funds and the corruption in the oil industry are sufficient grounds for the N97 per litre cost of petrol to be drastically reduced. The NLC holds that if the government picks up courage to do local refining, the cost of PMS need not be as high as the old price of N65 per litre.”
David-West, who described the findings of the committee as a national shame, called for the prosecution of all those indicted in the subsidy fraud.
David-West told The Guardian in Port Harcourt, Rivers State yesterday that the report had vindicated him and other Nigerians who had consistently argued that they had been subsiding fraud rather than fuel.
ANEEJ, the Benin-based oil industry watch-group, also called for the immediate implementation of the report and urged the President to sack Alison-Madueke.
The group in a statement yesterday by its Executive Director, Rev. David Ugolor, said. “We commend the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee for doing a very detailed and comprehensive work on the fuel subsidy sleaze. It shows that those who lost their lives during the civil society and organised Labour protests did not die in vain.
The group’s Policy Officer, Mr. Innocent Edemhanria, said it was gratifying to note that one of the recommendations of the
committee was the immediate unbundling of the NNPC, which the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) sought to achieve.
Oil workers also joined the call on Alison- Madueke to quit because “she has questions to answer on the subsidy scam and others in the industry.”
Officials of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), told The Guardian that the report had confirmed their assertions that the oil sector needed to be sanitised.
Lagos Zonal Chairman, PENGASSAN, Folorunsho Ogini, said the report had vindicated the union’s position that the N1.3 trillion spent on subsidy was manipulated.
Ogini, however, called for the resuscitation of the refineries and construction of new ones to meet national demand and stop fuel importation.
“The Secretary-General of the Petroleum Tanker Driver branch of NUPENG, Dayyabu Garga, said it was too early to arrive at a conclusion on the situation, saying “we have to wait and get the full report.
Garga also stressed the need to hear the marketers’ defence, “because in this country, many things are happening. This is the country where you see somebody that probes, turning around to be probed, so I believe it is too early to comment,” he said.