Indications have emerged that a serious intra-party crisis is brewing in the Peoples Democratic Party over the report of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the management of fuel subsidy.
SATURDAY PUNCH investigations show that many PDP big shots are chairmen of oil companies that had been asked to refund fuel subsidy collected without supplying any products.
It was learnt that the PDP chiefs had complained to the leadership of the party that the probe was hijacked by some elements to score political points.
Our correspondents gathered that fuel importers in the PDP ranks alleged that some of the House of Representatives members deliberately sponsored their indictment to actualise their political ambitions ahead of 2015.
A leader of the party told one of our correspondents in confidence, “It is an open secret that some members are nursing governorship and senatorial ambitions. Some of the people indicted are saying that the report is the handiwork of such lawmakers.”
An investigation showed that the PDP had delayed its reaction to the probe report till Wednesday because of the issue and the party’s emphasis on reconciliation.
It was learnt that some of the controversial payments said to have been made by the Petroleum Product Pricing and Regulatory Agency took place early in 2009, before Goodluck Jonathan became President.
After delaying its response to the report of the investigation, the PDP issued a statement on Wednesday after its National Working Committee meeting in Abuja, insinuating that not all that were indicted were guilty.
The statement, issued on behalf of the party by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisah Metuh, said that in conducting the investigations, the House had a responsibility to apply the rule of fairness such that only the guilty should face sanctions.
“In this vein, the National Working Committee identifies with the various probes by the National Assembly in exercise of its legislative oversight functions.
“Specifically, the NWC welcomes the probe by the House of Representatives into the management of the petroleum subsidy.
“While the NWC awaits the consummation of all due processes in line with fair hearing to ensure that only the guilty suffer, the PDP will continue to encourage the National Assembly to take necessary measures that will help to stamp out corruption,” Metuh said.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Justice and member of the Ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Management, Dr. Ali Ahmad, confirmed the intra-party squabbles thrown up by the report in an interview with SATURDAY PUNCH on Thursday.
Ahmad said many of the indicted companies belonged to “some past and serving governors, ministers and top leaders and politicians.”
Ahmad said that Farouk Lawan, who has a governorship ambition in Kano State, approached his job with the conviction that the interest of Nigeria is paramount and should take precedence over any other interest.
He quoted Lawan as having said that he would not be deterred by the effect of the report on his governorship ambition or whether the PDP would agree to give him a governorship ticket or not.
Ahmad had said, “Lawan wanted to be a governor and he still wants it under the umbrella of the PDP. He has been there for many years. Kano State is a fair state: The PDP today; the All Nigeria Peoples Party tomorrow.”
“Look, if the PDP will not give me the ticket for my governorship ambition because of this report, because of influences we are getting, so be it. We should not trivialise this report because people have sacrificed a lot,” Lawan was quoted to have said.
On Monday, one of the firms indicted in the probe, which was ordered to refund N13.2bn to the government coffers, the Integrated Oil and Gas Ltd., said the report was deliberately put in place to scuttle the political ambition of its chairman.
An investigation showed that a former Minister of Interior, Emmanuel Iheanacho, is the owner of the oil company ordered to pay the money to the FG.
Sources close to Iheanacho said the politician was making moves to contest the governorship in Imo State against a member of the House of Representatives.
A legal team representing the company, led by a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Uche Onyeagucha, alleged at a news conference on the subsidy report that it was deliberately scripted to indict Iheanacho.
The company, through its lawyer, called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other anti-corruption agencies to ensure an investigation of the panel’s submission that the company owed the country N13bn.
The lawyer challenged the committee to prove its claim to Nigerians that there was no political motive in the report by showing the pattern that was followed to arrive at the N13bn claim.
He added, “All the necessary details in respect of the gasoline cargoes imported by our client to date have been subjected to this rigorous due process validation and this information was made available to the ad hoc committee on petroleum subsidy administration during its recent sittings.”
But the House said the allegation of sponsoring the probe by members for political reasons was “diversionary.”
The spokesman for the House, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, told SATURDAY PUNCH that those indicted should address the “facts of the report and not create diversion.”
He said, “This report is very clear on so many areas.
“It is evident that people collected subsidy and they did not make any supply of products.
“So, rather than create diversion, the question is did you take subsidy?”
When our correspondent contacted Metuh, he claimed that the PDP was not aware of any intra-party dimension to the subsidy probe.
He said he would not comment on the matter as the affected persons were expected to forward a petition to the national leadership of the party if they wanted any intervention.
He said the constitution of the PDP made it compulsory for aggrieved parties to write the NWC on such issues
BY NIYI ODEBODE, JOHN AMEH AND FIDELIS SORIWEI | Punch
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