At a post-Council meeting press briefing in Abuja, the Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, said a report submitted to members by Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, indicated that some of the indicted marketers had started paying back to the coffers of the Federal Government sums that were wrongly paid to them.
The council presided over by Vice-President Namadi Sambo has all state governors, the Central Bank Governor, and the ministers of Finance, National Planning and Federal Capital Territory as members.
Obi was joined at the briefing by Governors Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State; Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State; and Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State as well as the Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman.
Obi however refused to disclose the names of the marketers that had already made the refunds and the amount they reportedly refunded.
Obi said, “From the report we got today, some (indicted oil marketers) have started refunding. It is a serious case that people were paid for vessels that were not anywhere near the Nigerian waters.
“I think when the Federal Government does a thing that is courageous and right, it should be encouraged and that can at least give them the courage to do more.
“We support the Federal Government in its effort to clean up the entire value chain and process of petroleum industry it has our full support. The Council commends the Federal Government on its present stand on the prosecution of those who were wrongly paid subsidy money and on the need for them to refund it fully.”
The Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede–led Presidential Committee on Verification and Reconciliation of Subsidy Claims and Payments had recommended the recovery of N382bn wrongly paid to 21 firms indicted of fraudulent activities.
But the oil marketers have been contesting the recommendation. The Jetties and Petroleum Tank Farm Owners Association on Wednesday dared the government to send the Aig-Imoukhuede committee report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission if it was sure of its findings.
Efforts on Thursday to get the reaction of the Executive Secretary of the JEPTFON, Mr. Enoch Kenawa, to the minister’s claims were not successful as he did not pick calls made to his phone.
He did not also reply to text messages sent to his mobile on the matter as at the time of going to press.
JEPTFON had also faulted the trial of its members while the government oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, allegedly collected 70 per cent of the controversial N2.6tn subsidy payment.
Meanwhile, the Council has also lent its support to what it described as the Federal Government’s commitment to the privatisation of the power sector.
But the NEC, according to Obi, failed to resolve the vexed issue of the Excess Crude Account at the meeting as agreed when they last met.
It had been agreed at the last meeting that lawyers to the federal and state governments should harmonise grey areas on the matter to allow a decision to be taken before the September 2, 2012 deadline by the Supreme Court for out-of-court settlement.
But when asked, Obi said the issue was not discussed at the meeting.
“The issue was not part of discussion, it is still there,” he said.
The governor said Okonjo-Iweala had briefed the Council on the progress being made by the SURE-P youth engagement and employment initiative following which the Council endorsed the plan to launch the programme in the states.
He said the employment programme designed to create 370,000 jobs had taken off in Niger and Adamawa states and was meant to be accelerated in all states of the federation.
He added that Okonjo-Iweala and the Minister for Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Mailafia, also made a joint briefing to the Council on the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project’s interest-free $500m facility.
He said the medium-term soft loan with a 40-year duration and 10 years moratorium was meant to check gully erosion in the South- East and other parts of the country which is increasingly threatening lives and the livelihoods of millions of Nigerians.
“On the issue of pending loans, the Council directed the Ministry of Finance and the Governors’ Forum to hold further discussions, beginning from August 24, 2012.
“This is to facilitate states’ access to such facilities, considering their benefits in reducing vulnerability to soil erosion, promoting agriculture and infrastructural development as well as creating employment opportunities,” he added.
Obi said the Council also endorsed the new National Oral Health Policy and the National Health Insurance Scheme as presented by the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu.
The governor added that the Council considered and approved a presentation by the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, on the planned non-partisan Good Governance Publicity Tour being jointly organised by the Ministry of Information and the National Planning Commission.
The tour, he explained, was meant to monitor, evaluate and showcase federal and states projects across the six geopolitical zones.
He said, “The Council deemed the tour worthwhile not only for its potential to showcase best practices in project implementation and value delivery, but also for the prospect of exposing the investment opportunities in each state.
“The Council therefore directed the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to set up a committee that will meet with the FMI and NPC to review the logistics for the tour and agree on the date of commencement.”