Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The Senate on Wednesday began a probe into alleged non-remittance of revenue into the Federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The NNPC was alleged to have failed to account for revenue amounting to about N5.1tn between 2006 and 2016.
The probe was based on a motion moved by Senator Dino Melaye and titled, ‘Discrepancies in subsidy payment and non-remittance of funds by the NNPC to the Federation Account.’
Melaye said although independent marketers accounted for 49 per cent of imported petroleum products and the NNPC accounted for 51 percent, it did not justify the huge amount the corporation paid as oil subsidy in the last 10 years.
The lawmaker added that from the records of the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, five to 10 cargoes of imported crude were arriving the country monthly, while about five cargoes were refined locally and each cargo contained 5.8 million litres of refined products.
Melaye stated that it was worrisome that the excess products, which could not be dispensed and went into different tank farms owned by private individuals, were not properly accounted for “as they are illegally sold off by the owners of these tank farms in a manner that is opaque and usually designed to rip off the public and enrich a few persons stupendously at the expense of the masses.”
“The Senate is disturbed that since this administration clamped down on subsidy payments, the NNPC has solely been responsible for retailing, with companies like Bovas and Rano paying between N20 and N25 per litre for the sale of this product, which amounts to over N2bn monthly,” he said.
Melaye said it was disturbing that “these monies are not accounted for and that might be the reason why we now see petrodollars buried in caskets and uncompleted buildings in remote villages in some parts of the country.”
He added, “The Senate is aware that majority of Nigerians overwhelmingly agreed to fight corruption and this informed the present administration’s resolve to tackle widespread corruption in all its ramifications, inclusive of the petroleum industry.
“It notes with dismay that despite the crackdown on corruption by the present government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, there has been a continuous violation by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation as regards non-remittance of proceeds from the sale of refined products into the Federation Account. This practice is similar to the problems that sparked the national outrage against the last administration.”
Seconding the motion, Senator Albert Bassey said he was aware that “as we speak, the NNPC is indebted to independent petroleum marketers and major distributors on subsidy to the tune of about $1.4bn.”
According to him, most of the problems in the financial sector of the country are as a result of outstanding obligations of petroleum product importers to the banks.
Also, Senator George Sekibo said while Nigeria was supposed to be one of the richest countries in the world and one of the greatest producers of oil and gas, “today, it is noted all over the world that we are in recession. And after a recession, depression comes. After a depression, there may not be a country.”
The lawmakers, at the plenary, which was presided over by the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, resolved to “mandate the Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) to exhaustively review and investigate the NNPC over its accounts relating to fuel subsidy and the abuse of product marketing and distribution between 2006 and 2016.”
Saraki said the motion bothered on the issue of corruption “in the most important sector of our economy, which is the petroleum sector.”
He said, “We must get to the bottom of this act, which I want to believe is not institutional; where individuals just believe they can do what they want to do and not be accountable to anybody. I want the committee to investigate this thoroughly and prudently. And I want all the members of the committee to ensure that a thorough job is done and ensure that we get a report that will tell us what exactly is going on.
“We cannot continue in a country where people will continue to add hardships to other people just because of their corrupt practices.” (Punchng.com)