True to its earlier pledge to Nigerians, the House of Representatives today began a live broadcast of the debate on the report submitted by its sub-committee which probed the rot in the petroleum sector.
In a live broadcast monitored on Nigeria’s Channels Television today, the House began the consideration of the report in a somewhat emotive session of a “Committee of the Whole.”
The highly sensitive report made far-reaching recommendations on the downstream petroleum sector including a refund of a staggering sum of N1.07 trillion allegedly stolen by named fuel marketers and government officials, the reorganization of some Federal agencies in the sector, and the prosecution of government officials fingered in the oily deals.
The “Committee of the Whole” session which was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihediowa, will still be presented to the House in plenary before it legally becomes a resolution of the House.
President Goodluck had on Sunday promised to implement the decision of the House of Representatives.
Speaking on his behalf, Dr. Reuben Abati, presidential media adviser assured Nigerians that he Jonathan “would act in the best interest of Nigerians”.
“Nigerians can be rest assured that President Goodluck Jonathan will act in the best interest of Nigerians in this matter. After the report is properly laid before the Federal Government, President Jonathan will not condone any wrongdoing and he will act in the best interest of all Nigerians,” Abati said.
Asked if President Jonathan would sanction the ministers who control the agencies involved, Abati said: “It is premature to take a decision because the House has not even completed its own process. The committee set up by the House upon completion of its assignment will present its report at a plenary session, the House will deliberate on the report and take a position and then communicate the position to the executive arm of government.
“It is only then that the executive arm of government can begin to react. The executive will study the recommendation from the House, articulate its position and take a decision.
“The ad hoc committee report does not amount to the position of the House. Let the House complete its own work. The executive cannot jump the gun.”
The report, which was submitted to the House last week had elicited public outrage, following revelation about the massive fraud involved in the management of public funds by 72 oil marketers and high-ranking officials in the petroleum sector.
According to the report, the NNPC is to refund N310.4bn it fraudulently claimed and another N285bn for fuel imports above the PPPRA level. It is also to refund another N108.6bn the corporation paid itself.
Also, the report says that N127.8bn, split in tranches of N999 million, was paid 128 times to “unknown entities” within 24 hours on January 12th and 13th in 2009 by a “particular Accountant General.”
A total of 15 purported fuel importers collected $337,842,663 in 2010 without importing any fuel, while another 18 firms, which failed to honour the House panel summons, were asked to refund N41.9bn.
Meanwhile, apparently acting on the report, Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala last Friday sacked two audit firms (Akintola Williams and Company and Adekanola and Company) which certified fuel marketers’ documents and claims before payments were made by the Ministry of Finance..
Also, a number of the fuel marketers indicted in the committee’s report have threatened to institute legal action against the House of Representatives, while public corporations have taken up media spaces in defence of their actions in the transactions.