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SUBSIDY PROBE: OIL MARKETERS SHUN SENATE, HEAD FOR LONDON

By NBF News
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Oil marketers summoned by the Senate Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Appropriation and Finance have shunned the invitation and are headed for London for an oil conference.

Senate began investigation of the management of the fuel subsidy scheme in November 2011 after it approved a motion by Senator Bukola Saraki calling the attention of the chamber to government's extra-budgetary spending.

Last Tuesday, at the resumed investigation of the subsidy scheme, Senator Magnus Abe-led joint committee summoned the Managing Director of Oando Plc, Mr. Wale Tinubu and Executive Secretary of Petroleum Products and Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Mr. Reginald Stanley to come and explain the criteria used to allocate fuel import allocations to oil companies worth billions of naira.

The committee had also summoned top management of the Pipeline Products Marketing Company (PPMC). Some companies, which got allocations, had neither fuel stations nor tank farms to store the imported fuel, the committee gathered.

Senator Abe specifically summoned Tinubu in his capacity as the chairman of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN). Tinubu had earlier submitted a written memo to the committee on the diversion of kerosene being sold as aviation fuel. Abe read out the letter and demanded that Tinubu appear in person to defend the contents of the letter.

The committee also summoned the management of Keystone Bank (formerly Bank PHB) and Union Bank Plc over claims by A-Z Petroleum that the banks funded their participation in the oil subsidy scheme. Meanwhile, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde informed the Senate that the commission had commenced an independent information gathering investigation on oil marketers participating in the scheme.

Lamorde said this during his confirmatory screening at the Senate last Wednesday.'I may not want to talk on the subsidy thing because the National Assembly is already investigating it. We don't want to interfere in what they are doing. We'll rather wait till when they are through and we get the report; then, we know what to do.

'Right now, we are gathering information and intelligence on that (fuel subsidy),' Lamorde said.

All the invitees were initially scheduled to appear before the committee on Monday.  A source on the committee told Daily Sun that the London conference would hinder some oil marketers from attending the Senate's meeting, which had now been postponed. 'The hearing slated for Monday has been put on hold in view of the international conference holding in London which most industry players are attending. A new date for their attendance will be announced,' the source said.

Abe, on his part, had explained why the Senate was pressing ahead with its investigation of the subsidy scheme, adding that anyone invited by the joint committee must show up or would be compelled to do so. His words: 'There's one National Assembly. We decided not to interfere with the House of Representatives investigation by allowing them to wind down. And so, the Senate joint committee is going to conclude its investigation in keeping with the mandate given it by the Senate.

'Whatever issues arise, we leave it to the leadership of the National Assembly to resolve and both houses are acting in the best interest of the country.'It would be unfair and against the rules of justice not to allow the oil marketers state their own side of the matter. Anyone we have invited that doesn't come willingly will be compelled to come. We have a constitutional right to invite anyone to shed light on some grey areas in the course of the investigation.

'If we notice anyone is not cooperating, we will be compelled to invoke our constitutional powers.'