Subsidy: Reps summon finance minister, query NNPC status

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The House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee investigating the petroleum products subsidy regime from 2013 to 2022, has summoned the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to appear before it on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, for questioning.

Ahmed is to appear before the committee with all the documents demanded by the lawmakers relating to subsidy claims and payments in the period under review.

The Chairman of the committee, Ibrahim Aliyu, issued the summons at the continued investigative hearing of the panel in Abuja on Tuesday.

Members of the committee had faulted the appearance of the ministry’s Director of Home Finance, Stephen Okon, without a letter from Ahmed authorising him to represent her.

Aliyu decried the non-appearance of several invited agencies, calling out the Nigeria Police Force, the Department of State Services, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Shell Petroleum Development Company, among others.

After Okon was eventually allowed to speak, the director said he only appeared before the lawmakers to seek more time for the ministry to collate and present the required documents.

The committee consequently gave the committee one week to do so.

The chairman said, “This committee requested from you to: know the total amount released from the Consolidated Revenue Account as subsidy payments from January 2013 to date; the total amount released from other accounts other than the Consolidated Revenue Account to subsidy payments from January 2013 to date; breakdown of beneficiaries; companies that enjoyed releases from the Consolidated Revenue Account and other revenue accounts as subsidy payments;

“Identify each beneficiary with the amount sent to them, month by month, covering the period from January 2013 to date; all correspondences between the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria regarding subsidy payments from January 2013 to date; evidence of lodgment of forex into Consolidated Revenue Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation now (Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited) as revenue from January 2013 to date.

“Outstanding deposits expected from the NNPC to the consolidated revenue account indicating periods, years and dates; statement of account of all bank documents; evidence of NNPC and its affiliates; subsidiaries transfer of funds to the Treasury Single Account in line with the directives of the President and Commander-in-Chief; statement of accounts operated by the NNPC and subsidiaries under the TSA regime; list of commercial bank accounts operated by the NNPC and subsidiaries before the advent of the TSA; balance of forex yet to be transfer to the TSA by NNPC and its subsidiaries.”

Aliyu stated, “We are giving the minister of finance one week to appear before this committee and make presentations.”

The committee also grilled representatives of Sahara Energy Resource Limited led by Benson Oko.

The lawmakers picked holes in the written presentations by the company to the committee especially concerning its legal status.

A member of the committee, Mark Gbillah, had noted discrepancies in documents especially wherein Sahara Trade West Africa Limited issued a letter of authorisation on behalf of Sahara Energy Resource Limited.

Consequently, the committee resolved to ascertain the incorporation of the companies.

Gbillah said, “In the agreement, it said that Sahara Energy Resources, a company incorporated under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Both on oath, the representatives of Sahara said it was not a Nigerian company.

“So, Mr Chairman, I want to move a motion that they provide us with the incorporation status of Sahara Energy Resource, including their address, shareholding and profile of the company. My concern here is that an entity which does not meet the turnover that is indicated as a requirement for this transaction is being engaged to participate in this critical expenditure of our common wealth and the fact that this company has no presence in Nigeria.”

In his ruling, the chairman, who stated that the lawmakers were not out to witch-hunt anybody, mandated the oil company to appear in two weeks.

Aliyu said, “We are only discharging our constitutional responsibility and we are empowered by law to summon anyone and their failure to do so might lead to serious sanctions or consequences.

“We resolved that Sahara Energy Resource should provide all the relevant documents and information as captured in the motion and should make an appearance in the next two weeks. The Chief Executive Officer should appear.”

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