09 November 2013, Abuja – A new twist crept into the missing N500 billion subsidy reinvestment fund on Thursday, when the Senate Committee on Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, faulted the position of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation on the missing fund, asking it to appear before it and explain the whereabouts of the missing money.
The twist came on the heels of a fresh revelation that a whopping N746.34bn was allocated by the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee to the three tiers of government within the last 21 months for the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme.
In an exclusive telephone interview with one of our correspondents, a member of the committee, Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, noted that the NNPC in its reaction to the purported missing N500bn did not address the issues raised by the committee.
Kunlere said, “Instead of staying back in the comfort of their offices and addressing issues not raised by the committee, the management of NNPC should come forward, sit with us and let us iron out this matter, once and for all.”
“Nobody is accusing them of misconduct. What we are saying is that Nigerians need to know how their collective wealth is being managed and this hide-and-seek game will not help matters.
“When they come with their facts, we will sit down together and see what has gone wrong, where and how. We need to do this in the best interest of Nigerians.”
The N746.34bn allocated by FAAC is N53.66bn less than the N800bn which the Senate committee said had accrued to the SURE-P committee within the period under review.
Investigations by our correspondents on Thursday showed that the sum of N35.54bn is paid monthly into the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme account domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Going by the allocation formula, the Federal Government out of this N35.54bn gets N15bn monthly while the balance of N20.54bn is shared among the 36 states of the federation.
Going by the monthly allocation, a total amount of N746.34bn had accrued to the three tiers of government within the last 21 months.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Abdul Ningi, said the action of the NNPC was unconstitutional because the corporation had deliberately shunned an arm of government saddled with the responsibility of acting as check to the executive arm.
He said, “We are going to inform the Senate President about the matter and we will write our report accordingly. Nobody, no matter how highly placed, is greater than Nigeria. It is the people’s money that we ask them to account for, not their own money.
“We need the cooperation of all the agencies that are connected with the collection and disbursement of the SURE-P fund to explain how they have been managing the money which they are holding in trust for Nigerians.”
A member of the ad hoc committee, Senator Kabiru Marafa, said the NNPC must explain why it was giving N15bn monthly to the SURE-P committee when the arrangement was for it to retire the subsidy fund of N32 per litre of fuel sold within a month to the committee.
He said, “We have tabled our case before Nigerians based on the document submitted by the NNPC and if they did not come to us to defend themselves physically before us. “We will employ necessary legal means to make sure that we inform Nigerians about what is happening to their money in their care.”
It will be recalled that the NNPC on Wednesday said it had nothing to do with the disbursement and appropriation of funds to the SURE-P committee.
The NNPC’s reaction was prompted by what the Senate stated on Tuesday that the corporation had not accounted for the N32 removed as subsidy on each litre of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) sold from January 2012 to September 2013.
The Senate had lamented that officials of the NNPC failed to honour its invitation to give account of how they managed the accrued fund.
But the NNPC, in a statement, said, “the Corporation has no connection whatsoever with the disbursement and appropriation of funds to the SURE-P Committee.”
The Acting Group General Manager of the corporation, Tumini Green, said the SURE-P budget was managed by a committee made up of eminent Nigerians, but maintained that the corporation was not connected with the funds.
She said, “NNPC is neither a member of the SURE-P committee nor does it pay any money into the SURE-P account for any reason whatsoever.
“The budget is the responsibility of other requisite statutory authority. The committee superintends the disbursement and the execution of the various social welfare projects.”
Green insisted that the corporation does not know how the funds were managed.
She also explained that the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, could not appear before the committee because she was away on a very important national assignment.
Meanwhile, condemnation has trailed the missing subsidy fund.
Groups and prominent Nigerians, who condemned the missing fund in separate interviews with Saturday PUNCH on Thursday, said the case must not be swept under the carpet.
Those who spoke included the National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr. Anthony Sani, a former spokesman of the Save Nigeria Group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, and prominent lawyers, including, Mr. Yusuf Alli (SAN), Mr. Festus Keyamo, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, Jiti Ogunye, Wahab Shittu and human right activist, Joe Okei-Odumakin,
They said those responsible for the missing fund should be investigated and prosecuted.
The Federal Government had on January 1, 2012 partially removed fuel subsidy, which led to increase in the price of petrol from N65 to N97 per litre.
The subsidy removal led to eight-day protest in some parts of the country including Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and Abuja.
President Goodluck Jonathan, as part of efforts to assuage the anger of Nigerians, on February 13, 2013, set up a committee to manage and reinvest the Federal Government’s share of funds that accrued from the partial removal of the subsidy.
But the Senate had on Tuesday said that the Nigerian NNPC could not account for N500bn SURE-P fund.
In its reaction, the ACF warned that there was the need for the executive and the National Assembly to investigate the missing fund
It noted that if the missing fund was not investigated, it would rubbish the anti-corruption crusade of the Jonathan administration.
The National Publicity Secretary of the Forum, Mr. Anthony Sani, stated this in an interview with Saturday PUNCH on Thursday.
The forum said that offenders must be punished to serve as deterrent to others.
Sani said, “They (National Assembly) should investigate and find out how it got missing. That is the normal thing. Just to say it is missing is not authoritative enough.
“Let them investigate how it is missing in the interest of their (government) campaign against corrupt practices.”
– The Punch