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PDP BOT Chair Aspirant, Ahmadu Ali, Faces Prosecution Over Subsidy Scam

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The House of Representatives witnessed a near rowdy session, Tuesday following the consideration of the Farouk Lawan's 205-page ad-hoc Committee report, as almost all its members were in attendance at the sitting to give emphasis to the importance of the

session. reports that a major part of the recommendation which is believed to have jolted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was the reconsideration and adoption of the recommendation on former National Chairman of the party, Senator Ahmadu Ali, who was the chairman of the Board of Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) from 2009 to 2011 and his other board members.

Contrary to the recommendation by the committee that he should only be reprimanded for the role he played, the legislators adopted a harsher sanction which now stipulates that he and the other members of the board within that stipulated period be investigated and prosecuted by the relevant anti-graft agencies instead of the one which had read that, "the chairman of the Board of Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), from 2009 to 2011 and the entire members of the board during the period are hereby reprimanded and their decision, which opened the floodgate for the bazaar is condemned in the strongest terms."

As the debate was on, a group of Nigerians protested at the entrance of the National Assembly with placards and banners displaying the photograph of the Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke. They chanted songs and demanded that some of the indicted people in the subsidy scam, including the Minister, be left off the hook claiming that the probe was actually targeted at her.

Nevertheless, the House approved the recommended that the NNPC should refund the sum of 'N310,414,963,613 paid to it illegally as subsidy for Kerosene contrary to the presidential directive of July 29, 2009 withdrawing subsidy on the product to the Federation account. It also approved the recommendation for the unbundling of the NNPC in other to make its operations and activities transparent.

While the House called for the quick passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law, it instructed the Auditor-General of the Federation to appoint an Auditor who would audit the accounts of the NNPC and submit the report to the Public Accounts committee of the House in the next three months.

The lawmakers reduced from 15 to 13 the number of companies that were recommended to refund the monies they had allegedly collected from the Federal Government as subsidy claims without supplying any products thus exonerating POKAT NIG. LTD and SYNOPSIS ENTERPRISES LTD who were later discovered not to have participated in it.

The House soft-pedalled on the other 17 companies which failed to turn up during the probe and were indicted and asked to refund N42 billion through the intervention of relevant anti-corruption agencies as they have now been were given two weeks by the House to appear before the panel to defend themselves in the spirit of fair hearing and due process. This came after Honourable Osai Osai, appealed to his colleagues to reconsider the stand of the committee on the companies and that they should be given another chance.

Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, learnt, later handed the activities of the session over to Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha after he was summoned by the PDP as it was further learnt that the report had since destabilised the party hierarchy that has been making desperate efforts to launder President Goodluck Jonathan's image and governance style to the citizens of the country.

Tambuwal had confirmed that there were serious pressures on the House to jettison the report while addressing his colleagues before handing over to the Deputy Speaker. According to him, the House was "fighting against entrenched interests whose infectious greed have decimated our people. Therefore be mindful that they will fight back, and they do fight dirty."

He told his colleagues that in as much the House had decided to go on with the report, they should all be prepared to fight it to the last with equal zeal especially as Nigerians had thought that the lawmakers would either do a shoddy job or throw the report aside for it to continue to gather dust like previous ones of that nature.

He advised his colleagues not to allow themselves to be devoured by those who have been indicted and have become desperate to thwart the efforts of the committee at ridding the country of corruption and impunity while slamming the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for its withdrawal from embarking on the recommendations of the House.

"The probe of the oil Sector has raised so much dust from certain segments of the polity such that it became clear that the intention was to frustrate it. For those who regard the oil sector as a secret society or sacred cow, I wish to state without equivocation that it is not. All public agencies in the oil sector are the creation of Acts of the National Assembly and this Honourable House has no powers to legislate for the creation of secret societies. Similarly all private sector corporate bodies operating in the sector are the creation of the Corporate Affairs Commission and that Commission also is not vested with any powers to incorporate secret societies. Let it therefore be known that in our drive to sanitise the polity, there are no sacred cows and we do not intend to discover any.

"However, that is only one part of the job. We now have the more crucial duty of considering the report and recommendations of the committee. Usually in a matter such as this, one is accustomed to hearing differing opinions presented passionately. Or passions presented as opinions. But we must never forget who we are and where we are, because Nigerians are watching us very closely and history will judge what we do here today. I therefore urge each and every one of you to look at this report dispassionately.

"Be fair in your comments and set aside all primordial sentiments so that we can do justice to this important document.

"Let me reiterate the fact that we are discharging a constitutional assignment here and it is therefore incumbent upon us to do our duty without fear or favour. Let me also remind you that we are fighting against entrenched interests whose infectious greed has decimated our people. Therefore, be mindful that they will fight back, and they do fight dirty.

"I have heard all kinds of insinuations, including the one about anti-graft agencies waiting for a 'harmonised version' of this report before taking any action. Let me quickly say here that this is at best an excuse that cannot stand after all the same agencies accept and investigate petitions from individuals, how much more resolutions of this House. There will be no such document so they should just go ahead and do their job and where they find any person or body culpable, they should proceed in accordance with the law."

He said the lawmakers' only interest in the issue should be to mitigate the suffering of Nigerians by showing how the subsidy regime has been hijacked for the benefit of a few so that at the end of the deliberations, the executive arm would be made to act upon the resolutions of the House and bring more transparency to bear on the system.

The House then went ahead to approve 35 out of the 62 recommendations by the committee and amended seven before adopting them, one of which was the investigation and prosecution of Ali and the other board members. It also announced that the consideration and adoption of the remaining recommendations would be done today after which the House would officially adopt the report.

Some of the other recommendations approved by the House included:

"That the Executive Secretary of the PPPRA 2009-February, 2011 should be investigated and punished for the official recklessness he exhibited in the implementation of the board decision to reverse the qualification for participation in the scheme.

"That the management and board of the Nigerian National petroleum Corporation should be completely overhauled and all those involved in the following infractions be further investigated and prosecuted by the relevant anti-corruption agencies.

  (a). Payment of N285.098 Billion in excess of the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency

  (b). Subsidy deductions from the funds meant for the federation account in contravention of section 162 of the Nigerian constitution and

  (c). illegal granting of price differential (discounts) of crude oil price per barrel to Nigerian National Security Corporation to the tune of N108,648 Billion from 2009-2011.

"That the practice whereby PPPRA as a regulator in the petroleum downstream sector being supervised by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources whose minister is the chairman of the Board of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (a major Importer/participant in the Petroleum Support Fund scheme) negates the principles of checks and balances and international best practices.

"That the committee is firm in its view that if any petroleum product is deserving of subsidy, house hold Kerosene should enjoy a pride of place. It therefore recommends the immediate reinstatement of subsidy on kerosene not later than the second quarter, 2012 at pump price of N50 per litre.

"That the Petroleum Support Funds guidelines should be revised to make Tax compliance a mandatory pre-qualification requirement for all participants under the scheme.

"That the Federal Inland Revenue service should follow up on the companies listed earlier to pay their taxes with due penalties in line with the provisions of the companies income tax Act within three months.

"That marketers without storage facilities and retail outlets should be excluded from participating in the Petroleum Support Funds Scheme as this will end the Bazaar that constituted a serious drain on the nation's economy and created room for abuse.