Reps kick as stakeholders shun subsidy probe

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The House of Representatives, on Wednesday, condemned the critical stakeholders in the petroleum sector for failing to honour its summons to an investigative hearing on subsidy payments by the Federal Government on petroleum products.

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, to declare open the inaugural investigative organised by the Special Ad Hoc Committee on Petroleum Products Subsidy Regime in Nigeria from 2017 to 2021, decried the absence of the stakeholders.

A similar situation was recorded on July 5, 2022, when Gbajabiamila condemned the non-appearance of top officials of the Federal Government before the Ad Hoc Committee on the Volume of Fuel Consumed Daily in Nigeria at its investigative hearing.

Gbajabiamila had particularly called out Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; and the Chief Executive Office of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (formerly Group Managing Director of the defunct Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation), Melee Kyari; as well as the Managing Director of Petroleum Pipeline Marketing Company, Isiaku Abdullahi, among others.

Consequently, the committee, chaired by Abdulkadir Abdullahi, summoned the GMD of the NNPC, MD of PPMC, Accountant-General of the Federation, CBN governor, Minister of State and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Minister of Finance and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance.

The Speaker, who was represented by the Deputy Majority Leader, Peter Akpatason, was miffed by the fact that most of the critical stakeholders were absent from the hearing while those sent to represent a few of them were officials whose cadres were lower than those required to answer questions on behalf of their organisations.

On Wednesday, Wase observed that most of the critical stakeholders in the oil and gas industry were not present, saying he was disappointed by the absence of those in authority who were expected to come and give account of what they have done to Nigerians.

The Deputy Speaker disclosed that the quantum of money allegedly spent on subsidy during the period under review amounted to between N4.9tn and N6tn.

He said, “On behalf of the members of the House of Representatives, I’m expressing my displeasure by the attitude of stakeholders in the oil and gas industry that are supposed to be here. Nobody has any excuse not to be here. That shows lack of respect for constituted authority and I think we are not going to take it.”

Wase charged the committee with ensuring that nobody is spared or made to feel that he or she is above the law. He also assured the committee that the House was ever ready to give them the necessary support and cooperation to ensure that the right thing was done for the interest of the country and for the benefit of Nigerians.

The Chairman of the committee, Ibrahim Al-Mustapha, in his opening remarks, also expressed the displeasure of the lawmakers with the non-appearance of the stakeholders.

Al-Mustapha said, “Let me start by expressing the displeasure of the committee for the nonchalant attitude exhibited by some MDAs as well as some executives of the oil companies for non-compliance and honouring of the request of the committee to provide vital information on the subsidy provided by the Federal Government. This action is unfortunate, unacceptable and condemnable, and it is undemocratic and an infraction of the separation of powers of the legislature in carrying out one of its legitimate functions which is oversight.

“It is more worrisome that this is happening in an era of change by the very people who should be the vanguards of the change mantra of this administration. But by treating a matter such as this with levity and contempt, it is a great concern to us that at a time when the country is undergoing a myriad of challenges, especially the current queues and hike in petroleum and diesel prices, which this ad hoc committee seeks to unveil, unravel and address.”

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