â€¢ Withdrawal of N10bn from NHIS for probe
James Emejo in Abuja
The Chairman, House Joint Committees on Finance and Petroleum Downstream, Hon. Babangida Ibrahim (APC, Katsina), yesterday said it had established that thereâ€™s an existing fuel subsidy regime which is unknown to the National Assembly.
As a result, he said a full-blown investigation into the sources of funding for the subsidy scheme had commenced.
The House had on January 17Â tasked the committee to find out what sources of funding were being used to operate the subsidy regime when thereâ€™s no proposal for it in the 2018 budget.
He said the pricing template made available to it by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) already indicated landing cost for petrol is between N160/N170 per litre while the official price remains N145 per litre.
Speaking at the maiden investigative hearing with relevant agencies, he noted that there exists wide difference which is being funded by the government.
However, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachiku; Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, and Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, as well as the Executive Secretary of PPPRA all failed to honour the committeesâ€™ invitation.
The committee therefore, resolved to write the heads of agencies again to give them another opportunity to appear before it.
Ibrahim said itâ€™s evidently clear that there is a gap between official and landing costs.
He suspended the interactive section to write agencies for a full-blown public hearing on the matter.
Also yesterday, the House passed a motion mandating its Committees on Healthcare Services, Finance and Anti-Corruption to investigate the withdrawal of N10 billion from the account of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.
The resolution followed a motion moved by Hon. Chike Okafor on the need to investigate the illegal withdrawal of the sum of N10 billion from the â€˜Insured Personsâ€™ Fund of the NHIS.
He noted that the fund made up of five per cent contribution by each insured person is maintained with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy for the administration of the scheme.
He added that withdrawal of monies from such designated accounts under the TSA at the CBN by any government agency is based on the request of the Chief Accounting Officer of the agency.
Okafor said a recent oversight inspection of the agency by the Committee on Healthcare Services revealed that two suspicious withdrawals of N5 billion each, totaling N10 billion were made from the â€˜Insured Personsâ€™ Funds account with the CBN on December 28, 2016, and January 11, 2018, respectively when the Executive Secretary of the scheme was still under suspension.
He said upon inquiry, the Executive Secretary informed the committee that neither him or any staff of the agency made any request for either of the two withdrawals, stating that the withdrawals were authorised by Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, without the input of the agency and in contravention of the laws and regulations governing such actions.
He argued that such practices, if not checked, would erode public and international confidence in the scheme and make a mockery of the anti-corruption stance of the present government.
Lawmakers frowned at the withdrawal and called for thorough investigations as well as bring the culprit to book.
Okafor had already summoned relevant heads of agencies to appear before his committee on the issue.