Senators under pressure to drop oil subsidy probe

31 October 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – MORE than a year after the Nigerian Senate launched its investigations into the implementation of the fuel subsidy scheme, there are indications that the legislative chamber has come under pressure aimed at frustrating the outcome of the investigations.

The pressure, it was learnt, is coming especially from interested stakeholders in the oil sector, who fear that the investigations could compound criminal investigations launched against them by the anti-graft agencies and the Police.

Remarkably, some of those pressing the Senate to drop the investigations include some who were not indicted by the investigations by the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Implementation led by Hon. Farouk Lawan.

Sweetcrude learnt, Tuesday, that money and other inducements were dangled before the Senate to drop the report of its committee articulated by the Senator Magnus Abe-led Committee on Downstream Petroleum.

The House of Representatives investigations into the subsidy payments eventually became bogged down by allegations and counter-allegations of inducements from interested marketers. Lawan who headed the House committee investigations and the committee clerk eventually admitted receiving $620,000 from Mr. Femi Otedola over the investigations forcing Lawan to step down from the committee.

The Senate committee’s report was presented to the Senate on October 9, nearly a year after the investigation was launched last November.

The Senate adjourned last week to resume November 6 when it is expected that the report would come up for consideration. However, hopes that the Senate will consider the report on resumption was last night put on probability as the upper legislative chamber is expected to step down plenary for rigorous committee work on the 2013 budget proposals.

The investigation was sparked by a motion presented before the Senate by Senator Abubakar Saraki, PDP, Kwara Central, who drew the attention of the Senate and the nation to the fact that subsidy payments had multiplied more than 300 per cent over the budgeted amount as at August, 2011.

It was gathered that ahead of the deliberation on the report, some marketers, importers and officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Petroleum Product Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), who may have been recommended for prosecution are leading the lobby effort to thwart consideration of the Senate report.

The Senator Abe-led Joint Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Appropriations and Finance was inaugurated in November 2011 to investigate the N1.3 trillion subsidy payments.

Several attempts to get Senator Abe to comment on the developments proved abortive, yesterday.

Before now there were suggestions that even the committee report like the initial motion would not be received by the Senate due to pressures from interested stakeholders.

Confronted by journalists before the Senate proceeded on break, Senator Abe told reporters that the probe report had not been released because the committee was still analysing the tons of documents and oral presentations it received during its public hearings, which ended in February.

According to him, the Committee “received bags and bags of documents from each of these subsidy participants and we needed to take our time to peruse these papers as dispassionately as possible. The committee is bound to take quite a bit of time,” adding that after the House of Representatives started its investigation, the Senate had to put its own on hold and the committee didn’t resume until the House finished everything it was doing.

He said: “Because we didn’t want to create a conflict between both chambers of the National Assembly since they had resumed on a Sunday and had taken off, we decided to hold on until they finished and that was what we did. So, it’s only proper that since they finished first, their report would naturally come in first before ours but we are taking our time to see that as much as possible, we do a thorough job that we ourselves would be ready to own up to.”

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  • It will be downright crazy at this point in time for the Senate committee conducting this probe to compromise. But, we dare say in Nigeria anything is possible considering all that we have had the misfortune of witnessing so far.