By Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) yesterday said it was awaiting the final outcome of an ongoing investigation into the alleged $3 million cash-for-clearance scandal involving the Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee Monitoring
the Fuel Subsidy, Hon. Farouk Lawan, and Chairman of Zenon Oil and Gas, Mr. Femi Otedola.
Prompted to respond to questions on the swirling controversy over Lawan’s alleged receipt of $620,000 from Otedola, the acting Group General Manager, Public Af- fairs Division of NNPC, Mr. Fidel Pepple, told THISDAY in Abuja, that the corporation would rather await the outcome of investigation in the alleged fuel subsidy probe scandal.
Pepple said in a telephone conversation that: “The truth of the matter is that I don’t think that the NNPC is disposed to comment on the matter as it is a matter that is at the high level of government and so we will wait on the outcome before making any official comment
The NNPC had at the presentation of findings of the probe committee faulted certain aspects of its content, insisting that the final probe report of the Ad hoc Committee which indicted it and several other entities of irregular activities in the subsidy administration may have been altered to embarrass it amongst other things.
The corporation in a statement from its former spokesman, late Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, had requested that full disclosure of the content of the probe be made to Nigerians by the committee if it was sure that it was not altered with the intention to deceive the country.
Ajuonuma had stated that NNPC never made any double withdrawal at anytime contrary to the allegation contained in the probe report which accused it of withdrawing from two different sources simultaneously to recover its subsidy claims.
He had said: “Such a claim is totally unfounded and absurd .We challenge both the Central Bank of Nigeria (CNB) and Ad Hoc Committee to provide evidence that such payments as alleged were made to NNPC. They must show authorisation for the payments as well as breakdown of the amount, purpose for the payments, beneficiary accounts in which such payments were made and the utilisation of such payments.”
“The basis for the deduc- tion of both cash calls for Joint Venture operations and NNPC’s subsidy payments as a first line charge on the income of the Federal Government is statutory and founded on the Appropriation Act which was passed by the National Assembly. Under the said Appropriation Act, certain budgetary items including subsidy payments to the NNPC are listed as first line charges on the income of the Federation.
“The Committee accepted the cash call as first line charge yet alleged that the subsidy aspect was illegal, it is clear that the tune of the Committee’s report is not only damaging to the Corporation but to the entire nation. At this stage it is pertinent to ask the question, whose interest is this committee serving?” Ajuonuma had then queried.
Lawan was purported to have received money from Otedola to remove the name of Zenon Oil and Gas from the list of oil marketers which bought foreign exchange (Forex) from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) but did not import petroleum products.
Lawan and Secretary to the committee,Hon. Boniface Emenalo, were alleged to have collected $620,000 on three instalments from Otedola who had also turned himself for questioning on the saga by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF); Lawan got $500,000 on two instalments while Emenalo collected $120,000, making it $620,000 in total sum from the $3 million Lawan had allegedly demanded.