Senate In Rowdy Session Over $3.8b Subsidy Funds
• Reps okay N831.2b for 2019 polls
The sitting of the Senate was yesterday uproarious following a resolution to probe operation of an alleged $3.8 billion Fuel Subsidy Under-recovering Fund by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The key players in the rowdy session were Majority Leader, Ahmad Lawan, his predecessor, Ali Ndume, and Kabiru Marafa. Trouble began when Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi, sought investigation of the alleged account. She had reminded her colleagues that despite attempts to compel the oil agency to submit a budget to the National Assembly on subsidy payments, its management had instead allegedly opted for a funding line not recognised by parliament.
She claimed that only two top officials in NNPC were directly in charge of the funds without oversight. He named them as the Group Managing Director (GMD) and the Executive Director in charge of Finance.
In his contribution, Ndume objected to the inclusion of members of the Marafa-led Petroleum (Downstream) Committee in the proposed probe, alleging that they may have been compromised in the line of duty.
He argued that as the standing committee overseeing the affairs of the corporation, it ought to have raised the alarm in the first place, adding: “We should set up an ad hoc committee.”
Apparently angered by the claim, Marafa said those canvassing a fresh panel were out to generate campaign funds ahead next year’s general elections. He insisted that Ndume must withdraw the statement and tender an apology just as the committee chair defended the NNPC and labelled the allegations as false. Consequently, the feuding duo were prevailed upon to retract their claims and tendered apologies.
Ruling on the matter, Senate President Bukola Saraki mandated Lawan to oversee the probe, urging him to lead members of the Marafa committee to meet with the management of NNPC and ascertain the true position of things.
Saraki said he didn’t want to politicise the issue, noting that it was too sensitive to be treated with laxity.
He had barely finished his remarks when Lawan declined his nomination, saying he would not want his name to be rubbished. But he eventually mellowed when reminded by Saraki that he could not decline the assignment since he was the Leader of the Senate.