President Goodluck Jonathan
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday promised Nigerians that he would act on the House of Representatives panel report on the management of the fuel subsidy.
Jonathan, speaking through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said “he would act in the best interest of Nigerians”.
“Nigerians can be rest assured that President Goodluck Jonathan will act in the best interest of Nigerians in this matter. After the report is properly laid before the Federal Government, President Jonathan will not condone any wrongdoing and he will act in the best interest of all Nigerians,” Abati said in a telephone interview with The PUNCH.
Last week, a committee of the House submitted a report that says that subsidy fund totaling N1.7bn was illegally paid to some government agencies and oil marketers.
The report identifies the agencies as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Petroleum Pricing Regulations Agency. The report also lists the Office of the Accountant- General of the Federation and 72 oil marketing firms as authorising and receiving the illegal payments, respectively.
Nigerians have called for the prosecution and possible jailing of the alleged culprits.
However, Abati noted that the House committee’s recommendations could not stand as the resolution of the whole House until a decision had been taken on them. The House will begin debate on the report on Tuesday (tomorrow).
Asked if President Jonathan would sanction the ministers who control the agencies involved, Abati said, It was premature to dwell on the matter.
Abati said, “It is premature to take a decision because the House has not even completed its own process. The committee set up by the House upon completion of its assignment will present its report at a plenary session, the House will deliberate on the report and take a position and then communicate the position to the executive arm of government.
“It is only then that the executive arm of government can begin to react. The executive will study the recommendation from the House, articulate its position and take a decision.
“The ad hoc committee report does not amount to the position of the House. Let the House complete its own work. The executive cannot jump the gun.”
The report, which was submitted to the House last Tuesday, had elicited public outrage, following revelation about the shoddy management of public finance.
According to the report, the NNPC is to refund N310.4bn it fraudulently claimed and another N285bn for fuel imports above the PPPRA level. It is also to refund another N108.6bn the corporation paid itself.
Also, the report says that N127.8bn, split in tranches of N999 million, was paid 128 times to “unknown entities” within 24 hours on January 12th and 13th in 2009 by a “particular Accountant General.”
A total of 15 purported fuel importers collected $337,842,663 in 2010 without importing any fuel, while another 18 firms, which failed to honour the House panel summons, were asked to refund N41.9bn.
The report states, “It is believed that these companies deliberately refused to appear because they have something to hide. The relevant anti-corruption agencies should ensure full recovery.”
On the N127.8bn, Saturday PUNCH had reported exclusively that the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. J. O Otunla, said the PPPRA made the controversial payment, as it owned and operated the account into which the said amount was paid.
Otunla who spoke through the spokesman for his office, Mr. Hassan Dodo, said, “The Account is owned and operated by the PPPRA. The OAGF did not issue cheques or any other payment instruments to any oil marketers.
“This Office, therefore, suggests that the House could demand from the CBN the details and the organisation that issued the payments instrument.
“This will confirm that they were issued by the PPPRA and not the OAGF.”
Other recommendations of the House panel include the prosecution of all members of “staff of the PPPRA and the Department of Petroleum Resources involved in the processing of applications by importers, and verification, confirmation and payment for imported products by importers and the NNPC.”
According to the committee’s report, all the refunds are to be made within three months.
Apparently, acting on the report, the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, last Friday, sacked the auditing firms of Akintola Williams and Company and Adekanola and Company.
The two firms certified the documents and claims of the marketers before payments were made.