Will house resolution on subsidy regime stand the test of time? – Round Led Panel Light Manufacturer

Share Kolawole Daniel, in this report, examines the resolution of the House ofRepresentatives on subsidy regime probe anchored by HonourableFarouk Lawan and its spill over effect on the economy as well asthe resolve of the House to ensure thorough implementation of theresolution. Majority of Nigerians never believed that the House ofRepresentatives was cut out to do a thorough job, when HonourableFarouk Lawan-led ad hoc committee was set up on January 8, during aspecial session, and mandated to verify and determine the actualsubsidy requirement and monitor the subsidy regime . Evenassurances from the House leadership that the probe would see the Round Led Panel Light of the day was taken with a pinch of salt by those who caredto listen. In no distance time, the committee commenced work and throughoutthe period that the probe lasted, Nigerians were treated to thesorry state of the nation s most priced natural resource which iscrude oil and how it is being managed by those who were entrustedto manage it.

It was revelations all through, not forgetting the alarm raised bythe committee itself that it was under pressure from some vestedinterest parties to jettisoned the probe. The committee, after alldrama and media frenzy, concluded the probe on February 9 and wasleft with collating and writing of the final report. Then, thewaiting game began and that further fuelled the apprehension byNigerians who were well abreast of the revelations that came outduring the probe. It was, indeed, a trying time for the House while the report of thepanel was still kept as top secret, with various media houses inthe country churning out supposed recommendations of the panel.This development, nevertheless, endeared Nigerians more to theactivities of the committee. As the waiting game continued, thechairman of the panel and those that mattered in the leadershipconfiguration of the House kept on assuring and re-assuring thatthe report of the committee would be thorough as to stand the testof time.

However, on April 18, after months of dilly-dallying over thesubmission of the panel s report, the committee finally submittedsuch and recommended that the Nigeria National PetroleumCorporation (NNPC), Petroleum Products Pricing and RegulatoryAgency (PPPRA), indicted oil marketers and companies that refusedto appear before the panel to refund the sum of N1.067 trillion tothe nation s treasury. Upon the submission of the report, April 24 was slated forconsideration of the report. Meanwhile, the executive summary ofthe report that was made available to newsmen indicated that, marketers that had short-changed Nigerians were identified andrecommended to make refunds within a time-frame of three months;civil servants were to be sanctioned in accordance with the civilservice rules as well as under extant laws; management staff andtop government officials were based on the gravity of theiroffences, to be reprimanded, re-deployed, dismissed and in specificcases prosecuted for abuse of office and fraudulent practices . Curiously, a day to the date slated for the consideration of therecommendations of the committee, the chairman, House Committee onMedia and Public Affairs, Honourable Zakari Mohammed, raised thealarm that some disgruntled elements were moving round to scuttlethe report of the panel which exposed corrupt practices in thenation s oil sector. Honourable Zakari, in a statement issued in Abuja, said that, weurge all Nigerians to be vigilant and wary of those who wouldrather want the country continue to be run in the usual corruptionladen way, which put unmerited resources in individual pockets atthe expense of the people.

The statement read in part, regarding the group of 18 marketerswho were deeply involved in the subsidy payouts, but declined toappear before the ad hoc committee, the purported recourse to legalaction is, in our opinion, an orchestrated plot to scuttle thefindings of the committee. Following the presentation of the reporton subsidy regime, several individuals, marketers and corporateorganisations not favoured by the report have sought to impune itsauthencity. Coming under various guise, including but not limited tobuck-passing and alleged non-invitation to the investigativehearing, several of them are desperately seeking to undermine theoutcome of the report consideration billed for tomorrow (April 24). For instance, despite repeated appeals by the Farouk Lawan-ledcommittee to all those who had anything to do with the country ssubsidy regime between 2009-2011 to come forward and makepresentations before it, some of these organisations convenientlychose to stay away-obviously, because they have something tohide-only to turn around now to claim non-invitation.

For the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), whichclaims that the ad hoc committee report may have been altered toembarrass it (the NNPC), is only in tandem with the currentreckoning of its spokesman as a Chief Denial Officer . Thecorporation must have been in possession of another version of thereport for it to assert that the one officially laid before theHouse of Representatives on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 wasaltered, the statement claimed. On the D-day for the clause to clause consideration of theLawan-led panel s 205-page report on subsidy regime, the Speaker,Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, who set the tone before theconsideration of the report through a brief remark, reiterated thatthe House would not spare anyone indicted in the bid to sanitisethe polity, stressing that the probe of the oil sector has raisedso much dust from certain segments of the polity such that itbecame clear that the intention was to frustrate it. For those whoregard the oil sector as a secret society or sacred cow, I wish tostate without equivocation that it is not . According to him, all public agencies in the oil sector are thecreation of Acts of the National Assembly and this Honourable Househas no powers to legislate for the creation of secret societies.

Consequently, the deputy speaker, Honourable Emeka Ihedioha, who bythe House rules was mandated to chair the committee of the whole,began a clause by clause consideration of the recommendations, withthe House rejecting the panel s soft landing recommendation forthe former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP_,Senator Ahmadu Ali, who served as Chairman of the Board ofPetroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Authority (PPPRA) from 2009 -2011 alongside his other board members. The Honourable Lawan panel had recommended that the Chairman ofthe Board of Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Authority(PPPRA) from 2009 – 2011, and the entire members of the boardduring the period are hereby reprimanded and their decision whichopened the floodgate for the bazaar is condemned in the strongestterms . But during the consideration of the report, members kicked againstthe recommendation and amended it to include that Senator Ali andother board members of PPPRA should be investigated and prosecuted. Respite, however, came the way of the 17 oil marketers that failedto appear before the panel and neither made submissions but wereindicted and asked to refund N42 billion through the interventionof relevant anti-corruption agencies. In a dramatic turn of events,the committee of the whole of the House gave the oil marketersanother window of opportunity as they were given two weeks toappear before the panel to defend themselves in the spirit of fairhearing and due process.

The affected oil marketers had, upon the submission of the panelreport, threatened to institute legal action against the House forallegedly not giving them fair hearing by the committee that probedthe subsidy regime. The House decision on the affected companieswas sequel to the input of Honourable Ossai Ossai who made a casefor the oil marketers, saying that they should be given fairhearing. The deputy speaker, in tune with Honourable Ossai s submission,asked the House Committee Chairman on Rules and Business,Honourable Sam Tsokwa, and a member of the panel, the chairman,House Committee on Justice, Hon Ali Ahmed, to guide the House. Theywere of the opinion that the 17 companies should be re-invited inthe spirit of fair hearing.

To this end, Hon Tobi Okechukwu,proposed an amendment that the 17 companies should re-appear beforethe committee within two weeks to explain the level of theirinvolvement in the N42 billion subsidy fund. Part of the panel s recommendations adopted by the House includedthe order on the Auditor General of the Federation office tourgently audit NNPC accounts and submit the report to the HouseCommittee on Public Accounts within three months. Approval was alsogiven to the panel s recommendation that President GoodluckJonathan should reorganise the Ministry of Petroleum Resources tomake it more effective in carrying out the much-needed reforms inthe oil and gas sector and as well appoint two ministers to takecharge of the upstream and downstream of the petroleum sector. The House also adopted the recommendations that stops the NNPC fromany form of deduction not captured in the Appropriation Act beforeremittance to the Federation Accounts, and the Corporation shouldsubmit its transactions to the operational guidelines of thesubsidy scheme.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) was also mandated by theresolution to follow up and penalise all the companies thatdefaulted in paying companies that failed to pay their taxes inline with the provisions of the companies income tax Act withinthree months. The anti-corruption agencies was also asked through the resolutionto investigate and prosecute former Ministers of Finance, MrMansur Mukhtar (2009 2010) and Mr Olusegun Aganga (2010 June,2011) who is now Minister of Trade and Investment; former theAccountant-General of the Federation, (AGF), the current governorof Gombe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo: present AGF, Mr JonahOtunla, and Director-General of the Budget Office, Dr Bright Okogu,for an alleged extra budgetary expenditures under the PetroleumSupport Fund, PSF scheme. The House, during the second day of the report consideration whichwas tensed, rowdy and dramatic, was sharply divided over thecontinued stay in office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources,Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The drama started when a lawmaker,Honourable Robinson Uwuak, through a point of order, demanded forthe resignation of Mrs Alison-Madueke under whose ministry thewhole subsidy scam were perpetrated with reckless abandon, but wasover ruled by the deputy speaker who had earlier asked the lawmakerto approach the chair for consultation. Surprisingly, despite theconsultation, Honourable Uwuak still went ahead to express hisreservation for the minister s continued stay in office, theaction which received resounding ovation from his colleagues. At this point, the Deputy House Leader, Hon Leo Ogor, stood up andasked the House to follow due process, as, according to him, therecommendations of the panel were still being considered. Hisstatement, however, caused an uproar with members shouting, No!no!! no!!! she must go!

A drama also played out, when the the governor of Gombe who hadserved as AGF was let off the hook over the alleged payment ofN999 million in 128 times within 24 hours for further investigationby relevant anti-corruption agencies with the name removed andsubstituted with that of PPPRA. The decision was contested by theMinority Leader, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, but was overruled bythe Deputy Speaker. Before the removal of the governor s name from that particularallegation, Honourable Lawan, after being recognised to guide theHouse on the issue, told his colleagues that after the presentationof the panel s report, three letters were received from theCentral Bank of Nigeria (CBN), PPPRA and the Gombe governor overthe allegation and that it was actually the PPPRA that paid out thealleged sums. Other recommendations approved by the House include: That all thepayments which the PPPRA made to itself from the Petroleum SupportFund accounts in excess of the approved administrative chargeswhich is due to it under the template should be recovered and paidback into the fund. The officials involved in this infractionshould be further investigated/ prosecuted by the relevantanti-corruption agencies.

That the Executive Secretaries of the PPPRA, who were theaccounting officers and under whose watch these abuses wereperpetrated, should be held liable. That the Executive Secretaries of the PPPRA between 2009-2011should be investigated and prosecuted for the official recklessnessexhibited in the implementation of the board decision to reversethe qualification for participation in the scheme. The House was, however, divided on the issue of resolving theviolations in the oil sector using the Petroleum Industry Bill(PIB). Some members were opposed to the recommendation that the executiveshould send the PIB to the National Assembly. They also argued thatthere was already a PIB drafted before the House which should bepassed expeditiously but this also generated uproar from those notcomfortable with the idea of a PIB.

The House also recommended that the accounting firm of AkintolaWilliams, Deloitte and Olusola Adekanola and partners should beprosecuted and their services should be discontinued with immediateeffect for professional negligence in the whole subsidy regimesaga. The additional recommendation, which also summarised the positionof the House on the probe, reads, that the resolutions of theHouse on the report of the fuel subsidy regime should be served onMr President, the Senate and all anti-corruption agencies forinformation and necessary actions . Honourable Mohammed, who later briefed newmen after theadoption of the report, said that the objective of the report wasnot to witch-hunt anybody but to state facts as they were, addingthat the House was not playing anybody s script. He equally saidthat the report would be sent to President Jonathan, the Senate,relevant anti-corruption agencies for further action. Weeks after, a resolution of the House on the report was madepublic and conflicting position of the presidency was echoed bydifferent political appointees of the president, with some of themclaiming that the resolution would be implemented and others sayingotherwise.

In this Round Led Panel Light, the House has vowed that it would go allout to ensure that the report of Honourable Lawan-led ad hoccommittee on the subsidy regime management is implemented to theletter. Suffice to say that the House resolution on the subsidy regimemanagement has, since it was made public, been met with accoladesand commendations from various stakeholders. However, the onus nowlies on the presidency and the anti-corruption agencies to act onthe resolutions or otherwise. To put it straight, history willdefinitely record the role of individuals and their actions inexposing and punishing those indicted in the subsidy regimesaga.
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