President Goodluck Jonathan
By Onwuka Nzeshi
The House of Representatives Wednesday resolved to send the report of its Ad Hoc Committee on Monitoring Subsidy Regime to President Goodluck Jonathan for “his information and necessary action”.
Although the president is not bound to act on the report because it is not a legislation, the moral burden will be on him to take necessary steps to implement the recommendations of the legislative body on the mismanagement of the subsidy regime.
The report will also be forwarded to the Senate “for their information only”, the House said yesterday. The Senate also conducted a probe but its report is yet to be made public.
The report will also be subjected to the anti-graft agencies, although the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is conducting its own investigation too.
Some of the key recommendations adopted Wednesday, which Jonathan is expected to act upon, are:
•That the services of the accounting firms of Akintola Williams, Deloitte and Olusola Adekanola & Partners should be discontinued with immediate effect for professional negligence and connivance.
The lawmakers said the firms should be prosecuted and a new independent auditing firm appointed. The two firms are to be blacklisted from being engaged by any Federal Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA) for a period of three years.
•That the House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) should conduct an extensive and thorough investigation into the operations of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund Manage-ment Board in order to ascertain the management of the bridging funds under the subsidy regime.
•That all those in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Office of the Director General, Budget and Office of the Accountant General of the Federation involved in the extra-budgetary expenditure under the Petroleum Support Fund Scheme (2009-2011) should be investigated and prosecuted by the anti-corruption agencies.
•That the CBN and the Federal Ministry of Finance should critically examine and review the policy guiding payment for the importation of petroleum products to avoid the current fraudulent system that allows importers to bring in products from off-shore Lome or Cotonou to qualify for foreign exchange payments.
•That the failure of the Nigeria Ports Authority to provide this committee with vital vessel data particularly the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) members is an indication that either the NPA has a very poor record keeping system nor that it was a deliberate ploy to cover up the collusion between its officials and importers. They recommended that the House Committee on Marine Transport should conduct an investigation into the operations and activities of the Authority.
The House also adopted in principle the recommendation to disqualify some 71 marketers from collecting subsidy payments worth N230 billion, but said the final decision would be taken on them after the two weeks of grace granted marketers who complained of not being given a fair hearing.
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Zakari Mohammed, explained that since the report was not a bill, transmitting it to the Senate was not for the purpose of concurrence but simply for the information of members of the upper chamber.
Addressing a news conference shortly after the plenary, Mohammed said the two-week extension granted the ad hoc committee was to ensure that all the aggrieved marketers received fair hearing and avoid a situation where the report would be discredited on account of the allegations of exclusion.
According to him, the report of the additional investigation would also be considered and adopted by the House before a final report would be produced and transmitted to the relevant organs of government.
At the resumption of the consideration of the subsidy probe report yesterday, the House halted moves by some lawmakers to call for the ouster of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, over the report.
It was also a good day for the Governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo, as the lawmakers exonerated him from allegations in the report of possible involvement in some questionable financial transactions during his tenure as the Accountant General of the Federation.
In the course of considering the report at the Committee of the Whole, the House resolved that the payment of N999 million in 128 times within 24 hours (January 12 and 13, 2009) should be further investigated by the relevant anti-corruption agencies.
It however adopted the amendment that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation was not liable.
Dankwambo's reprieve came after the Chairman, Ad Hoc Committee on Monitoring Subsidy Regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan, disclosed that the latest information from the CBN had revealed that the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) was directly responsible for the controversial payments and not the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
Dankwambo had accused the committee of not doing a thorough job in its investigation.
The plot to press for the resignation of Alison-Madueke began early at the plenary with Hon. Robinson Uwak (PDP/Akwa Ibom) raising a point of order on a matter of privilege.
When he got the nod to table the matter, Uwak said that he had received several telephone calls from his constituents accusing him and the House of shielding the Minister of Petroleum Resources in the consideration of the subsidy report.
He therefore urged the House to include an additional recommendation demanding her resignation.
The motion momentarily created a rowdy atmosphere with a cross section of the members applauding and others expressing disapproval.
In a counter motion, Deputy House Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, urged the House to remain focused on the business of the day and avoid distractions as the consideration of the report was an important assignment which the House could not afford to derail.
But even this move to douse the tension created more rowdiness.
It took the prompt intervention of the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who presided over the session to bring the situation under control.
Ihedioha ruled Uwak out of order and cautioned lawmakers not to do anything that could create the impression that the House had some ulterior motives in the fuel subsidy investigation.