- Approves N129.048bn for payment of 67 oil marketers
- Holds valedictory session on June 6
- Asks FG not to downgrade Enugu Airport
- Leader accuses wealthy Nigerians of buying court judgments
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate Thursday disclosed that the federal government spent not less than N11 trillion on fuel subsidy in the last six years.
The Senate also approved the payment of N129,048,358,444.11 as final subsidy arrears payment to 67 oil marketing companies.
It also yesterday adjourned sitting till June 6 when the National Assembly is billed to hold its valedictory session.
The Senate’s approval of oil subsidy claims was sequel to the presentation of the report of the Senator Kabir Marafa-led 20-man Senate Committee on Downstream Petroleum Sector on Promissory Note Programme and Bond Issuance to settle inherited local debts and contractual obligations to petroleum marketers by the chairman.
Marafa, in his 11-page presentation, said Nigeria had since 2013 spent over N11 trillion to settle outstanding fuel subsidy claims.
However, he said the approval of the latest payment to 67 oil marketers ended the issue of subsidy arrears claims by oil marketing companies.
Marafa observed that there were differences in submissions made by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and oil marketers.
He said all the subsidy arrears claims were based on three inter-related elements: subsidy, forex differentials and bank interests on unpaid claims.
According to him, “That the recent request computation is based on one of the already identified elements (forex differential).
“That due to scarcity of forex within the period, oil marketing companies were allowed to source forex outside CBN rate to enable them to meet the country’s petroleum products demand.
“That NNPC Retail get their petroleum product allocation directly from PPPMC at already subsidised rate and so does not require forex to transact its business.”
Some of the benefitting oil marketers and the amount approved for them include: Total Nigeria PLC N13.7 billion, Northwest Petroleum N11.4 billion, Masters Energy N10 billion, MRS Oil PLC N8.8 billion and Sahara Energy N8.4 billion.
Others are: MRS Oil & Gas Limited; N6.3 billion, NIPCo Plc, N4.2 billion; Forte Oil N3.9 billion, DEEJONES Petroleum & Gas, N4.1 billion; Emadeb, N4 billion; Sulphur Streams Ltd N147.52 million; Eterna Plc, N704,89 million; Ceoti Limited, N88.20 million; and ASB Investment Company, N38.85 million; among others.
Contributing, some senators said Nigeria was bleeding paying outstanding subsidy claims and that this would hurt the nation’s economy.
They, therefore, called for the building of new refineries to end fuel subsidy payment.
On his part, Chairman of Senate, Public Accounts Committee, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, expressed concern that more subsidy requests would come in the incoming ninth Assembly because “the computations were not properly done.”
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, lamented that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) now charge subsidy claims on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, a development he described as unconstitutional.
He said: “I am also happy to note that we are coming to a closure on the issue of this outstanding payment on subsidy claims. And then begin to think of the best way to deal with the subsidy issues.
“And the frightening aspect of it is that the NNPC now charges subsidy on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation. What they do is that the issue of subsidy is now in the first-line charge on our oil revenue, which is extremely dangerous because that is completely unknown to our constitution.
“But the implication, therefore, is that those expenditures are never appropriated. So, it is a possible area of conflict between the executive and the parliament.
“I do hope that the next assembly will be able to sit down with the executive in order to address this issue without creating unnecessary tension. And NNPC needs to also caution themselves in that respect so that they don’t encroach on the appropriation responsibilities of the National Assembly.”
Meanwhile, the eighth Senate, which was inaugurated on June 9, 2015, will hold its valedictory session on June 6.
Ekweremadu made this known while responding to the motion for adjournment of plenary moved by Lawan.
Senate Leader Accuses Wealthy Nigerians of Buying Court Judgments
Meanwhile, Senate Leader, Lawan, Thursday accused wealthy Nigerians of influencing court judgments in their favour.
He spoke even as the Senate asked the federal government not to downgrade the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
Lawan, who made the allegation during plenary at the screening of Justice Abubakar Musa Sadiq as President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), accused the wealthy of using their resources to procure favourable judgments.
He said: “Ours is a society where people who have so much money buy judgments. I think that is not the type of society that we want. We want a society where those at the lowest line; the vulnerable and the disadvantaged can go to courts and get judgments because they deserve to get those judgments regardless of their socio-economic status.
“So I want to pray for you and for all of us that this nomination that we are going to confirm by the grace of God will be a blessing and an additional advantage to the judiciary and the people of this great country.”
Lawan, who is a strong contender for the ninth Senate presidency added that the judicial arm of government is expected by Nigerians “to be firm, fair, committed to those ideals that the founding fathers of this country worked and died for; that is to make life better for every Nigerian.”
The Senate thereafter suspended its rules and confirmed the appointment of Sadiq as President of the Customary Court of Appeal within 12 minutes of reading President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter to the lawmakers.
The Senate approved the nomination after it dissolved into Committee of the Whole to screen the nominee.
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary, had read a letter from Buhari requesting for the confirmation of Sadiq.
Lawan moved the motion for the accelerated screening of the nominee and was seconded by Senator Chukwuka Utazi.
According to Lawan, the motion became necessary since the eighth Senate would soon wind down.
When the nominee was eventually ushered in by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, the senators simply asked him to take a bow and leave.
Ekweremadu, therefore, put the question to voice vote and it was unanimously adopted by the legislators.
The Senate also yesterday implored the federal government not to downgrade the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, as earlier threatened by the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.
Rather, it urged the federal government to rehabilitate the runway of the airport for the safety of passengers and aircraft and in conformity with international aviation standards.
The Senate further urged the federal government to take steps to complete the new terminal building of the Enugu International Airport and put it to use by foreign and local airlines.
It also urged the Federal Ministry of Aviation and its agencies to develop a water source with the nearby Ekulu River for the use of the airport.
The Senate thanked the Enugu State Government for demolishing and ordering the relocation of the Orie Emene Market, shutting down the nearby abattoir and ordering the immediate removal of the broadcasting mast and other illegal structures on the approach of the airport.
It urged the Federal Ministry of Aviation to return all the generating sets allegedly removed from the Akanu Ibiam International Airport to the airport in Port Harcourt, on the orders of the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi.
The Senate passed these resolutions sequel to a motion, “the threat to downgrade the Akanu Ibiam International Airport,” sponsored by Senator Victor Umeh (Anambra Central) and co-sponsored by 16 other senators, cutting across party lines from the South-east, South-south and North-central.
Leading the debate on the motion, Umeh, said Sirika had threatened to downgrade the airport because of what he considered as imminent dangers posed to air travellers by the presence of a nearby market.
He listed the impediments as a state radio mast on the flight path of airlines that threatened the safety of incoming aircraft, an abattoir, which attracted large birds and exposed airplanes to the bird strikes, the location of a free trade zone and the decrepit state of the runway.
He, however, appreciated the concerns of the former minister over the safety of passengers and airplanes that were using the airport, noting that the airport currently serves travellers from Enugu, Kogi, Anambra, Ebonyi, Benue, Cross River and other adjoining states.
Umeh said rather than downgrading the airport, the federal government should think of upgrading it to meet international standards.
He expressed concern that the airport has only one runway, which is currently in bad shape, describing it as falling below international standards.
Umeh also expressed worries that the only source of water supply to the airport was from tankers, fire service van and the reservoir, which he said could not stand the test in time of emergency.
In his remarks, Ekweremadu stressed the need for relevant authorities in the Aviation ministry to speed up the upgrading of facilities at the airport.