Thursday, April 26, 2012

President Goodluck Jonathan will not spare culprits of subsidy fraud

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday threw his weight behind the report of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee which probed the management of subsidy funds, assuring that any proven culprit would not be spared.

Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says it is endorsing the petroleum subsidy probe being undertaken by the House of Representatives, adding that all guilty persons must face the music.

The House of Representatives, meanwhile, yesterday concluded the consideration and adoption of the 62-clause report of the ad-hoc committee with the recommendation that former ministers of finance Dr. Mansur Muktar and Dr. Olusegun Aganga be prosecuted for their involvement in the extra-budgetary expenditure under the Petroleum Support Fund, PSF, Scheme between 2009 and 2011.

The president, who also assured that there were no moves to scuttle the report of the ad-hoc committee, stated that both the executive and the legislative arms of government were on the same page on the issue and would collaborate towards ensuring that any rot in the oil sector was fully addressed.

Jonathan, who spoke through his special adviser on National Assembly matters, Senator Joy Emordi, told a press conference in Abuja that it was a wrong claim "in some quarters of uneasiness in the administration over the recommendations of the House ad-hoc committee on the utilisation of petroleum subsidies."

She said: "The issues that led to the investigation predated President Jonathan's administration. The president is poised to sanitise the oil sector and give it a new breath of life through enhanced probity, transparent governance and zero corruption.

"But for the fact that Mr. President ab initio initiated the move to rid the petroleum industry of the rot because the bane of this society today, the bane of maladministration in the petroleum sector is nothing but corruption.

"The fact that he appointed a person like Mallam Nuhu Ribadu to head another panel looking into the rot is a clear manifestation that Mr. President is determined to rid the sector. He is not going to spare anybody, otherwise, why would he appoint Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the ex-EFCC chairman and his very rival in the last presidential election? I am sure of that; he is not going to spare anybody found wanting and there are no moves... I am the special adviser to Mr President on National Assembly matters.

There is no slightest moves against the report here, of course. If there is any, I would be the channel. I am sure no move is being made and Mr. President has zero tolerance for corruption."

The House of Representatives, while recommending that former ministers of Finance Dr. Mansur Muktar and Dr. Olusegun Aganga be prosecuted for their involvement in the extra-budgetary expenditure under the PSF Scheme between 2009 and 2011, also demanded the prosecution of the recently sacked accounting and auditing firms of Akintola Williams, Deloitte and Olusola Adekanola & Partners for professional negligence on the particular assignment of recommending firms for payment for products supplied.

The House also moved that the firms be blacklisted from being engaged by any federal ministry, department or agency, for a three-year period and an independent auditor appointed to take over the job.

The lawmakers however exonerated the present Governor of Gombe State Ibrahim Dankwambo, who was the accountant-general of the federation, from involvement in the 'unusual' payment of N999 million for 128 times within 24 hours on January 12 and 13, 2009, recommending instead that the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) should be investigated by relevant anti-corruption agencies for authorising the payment.

The recommendations were amended from the original recommendations of the committee during the consideration and adoption of the report in the Committee of the Whole presided over by the deputy speaker, Hon Emeka Ihedioha.

Explaining why Governor Dankwambo should be excused from the recommendations, chairman of the ad-hoc committee Hon. Farouk Lawan informed his colleagues that the Central Bank of Nigeria, the PPPRA and the governor had written separately to the speaker of the House of Representatives, each stating that the payment for which he was being indicted was authorised by the PPPRA and the payments cleared duly by the CBN in their various clearing houses before payments were made via 128 cheques.

Armed with this information, the legislators substituted the accountant-general's name with that of the PPPRA and adopted it.

Also among the recommendations adopted by the House was that the National Assembly should commence the process of making specific laws that would criminalise extra-budgetary expenditure as the specific provision does not specify the exact penalty to be applied.

This section created a stir among some lawmakers who argued that there was no need to compel the lawmakers to do what they already know is their responsibility and advised that it should be deleted, but, after some arguments, the recommendation was adopted.

Just like it did in the previous day's consideration, the House went soft on marketers who it had earlier asked to return funds to the federal treasury for making discharges that suffered one or more infractions which were adjudged as not sustainable and therefore not good enough to attract subsidy.

Chairman of the Business and Rules Committee Hon. Albert Sam-Tsokwa noted that some of the names reflecting on the list of the disqualified claims companies which is in the tune of N230,184 billion also appeared on the list of companies which filed to appear to defend their involvement in the PSF scheme and therefore falls under the category of those re-invited to defend their involvement.

He therefore prayed the House to include the 71 firms in the two-week grace to give them an avenue for fair hearing before action is taken on whether they should refund the monies and be prosecuted by the relevant anti-corruption agencies or not.

Earlier, some notable PDP big-wigs like former chairman Ahmadu Ali and petroleum minister Diezani Allison- Maduekwe have been recommended for prosecution by the House.


Related stories: Nigeria fuel subsidy report shows $6.8bn lost due to fraud

Video - Reaction to reinstated fuel subsidy

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