NNPC $25b Contract Scam: Senate Prob Attract Ethnic, Religious Sentiments Threats From The Executive.
Further efforts to unravel the true position and prob the alleged awarded Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) $25b contract scam by the Senate attract ethnic, religious sentiments threats from the executive, under the government watch of President Buhari.
Already, cracks in the nine-member ad hoc panel led by a former Sokoto State governor, Senator Aliu Magatarkada Wamakko, has widened, as influential senators, including some members of the committee have expresse concerns about perceived pressure being mounted on them to frustrate the probe.
This is as protests within and outside the National Assembly, against subterranean moves to compromise the investigation and render it ineffective gather steam.
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On its part, the House of Representatives has concluded plans to summon the duo of Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru, during the week to clear the air on the issue.
Source learnt that sensitive sentiments, majorly along ethnic, religious and political lines, are being introduced into the crisis within the committee, by forces within and outside the National Assembly.
It was further learnt that some top members of the Senate leadership even reached out to the Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who was away to Russia, for the International Parliamentary Union (IPU), to stall the commencement of the probe until some level of sanity is restored to the committee.
Saraki is however, expected to meet with the committee members after a principal officers’ meeting on Monday to dispel insinuations of vested interests from the Senate leadership, and to encourage the committee to work as a team.
After the probe was suspended by the Senate last Tuesday, Wamakko could not speak on the crisis in the committee when reached. He simply ignored questions put to him at the Senate Hearing Room 231, where he had attended a meeting of the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions, which he is also a member.
He equally failed to respond to telephone calls and text messages since last Wednesday when he travelled to Sokoto. But a few senators who agreed to volunteer information on the matter confirmed the growing tension within and around the committee. They equally expressed displeasure that even the leadership of the National Assembly is being linked to the alleged bid to truncate the investigation.
A lawmaker said: “Although, I am not aware apart from what we read in the media, of any moves, by anybody in the Senate or House leadership to frustrate the investigation, what is certain is that the Senate has already taken a resolution to embark on the investigation and that remains sacrosanct.
“Whatever internal problem we may have in the Senate cannot result in dropping the probe because our rule is clear that we cannot cancel that resolution until another substantive resolution is sponsored and passed to that effect. So, no interest, political, ethnic or religious can jeopardise this investigation because it has already taken a life of its own,” he stated.
One lawmaker was particularly concerned about the growing trend in which heads of government departments attempt to sabotage parliamentary operations each time there were issues bordering on abuses or leakages.
“I think we are gradually approaching a time when we in parliament would have to call a spade a spade, by insisting that the right thing be done no matter whose ox is gored. All these reports we read about compromise would not be there if everything is right. For example, nobody in the executive would have any need to attempt to compromise the parliament, in any way, if the right process of law is adhered to.”
On the nature of the crisis in the committee, another lawmaker who has keen interest in the petroleum industry revealed that there were issues, which the Senate had been working towards unravelling and exposing in the petroleum industry before the emergence of the alleged $25 billion fraudulent contracts.
According to him, the rush to kill the probe by persons in the executive arm, using their allies in parliament arose from the desperation to cover up the entire shady deals. “I have always known that it will come to this point, where we would be made to be at war with one another to weaken the constitutional mandate of checking the excesses of the executive arm of government. All I plead with my colleagues is to disallow the use of all kinds of sentiments to split and weaken our legislative powers. The legislature remains the only pillar around which democracy is built, just because of its natural powers to expose and check against all forms of misconducts in governance. So, it is not surprising that these efforts are being made to destroy our unity.”
Membership of the nine-man ad-hoc committee include the Chairman Senate Committee on Petroleum Upstream, Tayo Alasoadura; his counterpart in the Petroleum Downstream and Gas, Kabir Marafa and Bassey Albert respectively.
Others include: Sam Anyanwu, Ahmed Ogembe, Chukwuka Utazi, Rose Okoh and Baba Kaka Garbai. Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum (Upstream,) Mark Gbillah, told The Guardian that both Kachikwu and Baru, would be summoned during the week to clear the air on the issue.