Subsidy: Senate Summons Okonjo-Iweala, Madueke, Sanusi, Others

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ABUJA, October 31, (THEWILL) - The Senate Monday summoned the Minister of Finance, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, Governor of Central Bank (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to appear before it at the public hearing on the planned removal of subsidy on petroleum products.

Others summoned are the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Austin Oniwon, Comptroller- General of Customs, Abdullahi Inde, the Executive Secretary of PPPRA, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, as well as Chief of Naval Staff.

Chairman of the joint committee, Sen. Magnus Abe briefed reporters on the modus operandi of the committee. He said the meeting with the agencies, which he described as a preliminary hearing, would hold on Thursday, November 3, 2011.

“Those invited include Minister of Finance, Dr. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Petroleum, Dr. Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke; the GMD of NNPC; Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria; Executive Secretary of the PPPRA; Comptroller General of Nigerian Custom Service; the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority as well as Chief of Naval Staff.

“First, we would meet with the government agencies involved in the oil subsidy to get a clear brief from them as the origin, nature, history and everything official about the operation of the oil subsidy in this country.

“Thereafter, we also resolved that we would invite memoranda from interested members of the public, and indeed Nigerians who have something to say about this very topical issue that affects each and every one of us in this country,” the senator stated.

Senator Abe noted that the invitation by the joint committee to government officials involved in the management of the fuel subsidy scheme stated clearly that the committee had resolved to request their reactions in a written brief.

“We also said that the written brief should explain the entire procedure for administering the subsidy, sources of the fund and why there has been unprecedented rise in the quantum of subsidy in the later part of this year than we had at the beginning,” he said.

He further said that after interacting with the agencies of government, the committee would hold a public hearing where all stakeholders would be invited to make submissions, adding that all the meetings with the agencies would be open and transparent.

Senator Abe said, “We want to assure Nigerians that this process will be open, transparent and whatever is the collective wisdom of the members of committee, at the end of the exercise would be made available to the Senate for them to take a decision and also for Nigerians to see what we have done.”

He however noted that this first invitation did not include the multinational oil companies, saying that after the dealings with the government agencies, if there was need to invite the IOCs, the committee would send out invitation letters.

“We have not invited the multi-nationals because they cannot give us the perspective we want in this initial invitation but any of them that has a position and send in their position in response to the invitation we have made to critical stakeholders to submit a memo, will be invited to state their positions.

“If also we deem anybody in this country relevant to this investigation, who did not submit a memo and we feel the person has something to say, we would invite such person, apart from those who will voluntarily indicate interest to come and testify at the public,” he added.

The Joint Committee was saddled with the responsibility of unraveling the contradictions in the fuel subsidy scheme after a motion brought by Senator Abubakar Saraki was debated and approved by the Senate.

Saraki had indicated that although N240 billion was earmarked in the 2011 Appropriation Act as subsidy for petroleum products, a total of N931 billion has so far been expended as at August 2011.

He said that the N240 billion budgeted was meant to be N20 billion per month, noting that of the N20 billion per month allocated, N11.2billion was for domestic fuel subsidy (NNPC) and N8.8 billion for domestic fuel subsidy(Market), as stated in the Appropriation Act.

His prayer for an investigation into the scheme was approved and three committees, namely, Appropriation, Finance and Petroleum (Downstream) were charged with the assignment.