Lawmakers probe Petroleum minister, non-remittance of NLNG funds

Nigeria's Petroleum Minister and OPEC's alternate president Diezani Alison-Madueke adjusts her glasses at the annual IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston*Alison-Diezani to appear before Reps over alleged profligacy

25 March 2014, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Minister of Petroleum Resources, Deziani Allison-Madueke, is to appear before the House of Representatives Committee on Public Account to explain the source of alleged N3.120 billion used to pay for charter of aircraft within two years.

A member, Samuel Adejare (APC Lagos), levelled the allegation against the minister in a motion at plenary last week.

The minister was also said to have spent another N10 billion for maintenance of an aircraft, a Challenger 850 Aircraft and its crew in the last two years.

Adejare, who represents Agege Federal Constituency, Lagos, made the allegations in his motion entitled, ‘Urgent Need to Investigate the Waste of Resources on the Arbitrary Charter and Maintenance of a Challenger 850 Aircraft for Non-official Use’.

In his lead debate on the motion, Adejare said it was wrong for the minister to have spent such money on frivolities at a time the resources of the country were dwindling and government complaining of lean purse.

“In these days of scarce national resources where public finance is shrinking in the face of ever increasing national needs such as roads, health, education and power, among others an official of government could waste public funds on such luxury as chartering a Challenger 850 Aircraft for extra official use.

“In recent times, most states of the federation have been facing acute shortage of allocations due to the dwindling national revenue which has reduced the quality of governance and deprived the people of dividends of democracy,” he complained.

Insisting that the allegation against the minister was not a cooked up one, the lawmaker said his submission on the issue “is based on reliable evidence”.

“The Hon. Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke, has been committing the sum of 500,000 Euros (N130 million) monthly to maintain the aircraft, thus in two years, the Minister had committed at least N3.120 billion in maintaining the private jet which is used solely for her personal needs and those of her immediate family, which is an appalling act” he added.

Adejare also explained that “there are strong indications that the above expenditure is only a tip of the iceberg as several other billions of naira have been allegedly wasted on flying the jet all over the world obviously for the leisure of the Hon. Minister and her immediate family on trips that were of no benefit to the country.

“This colossal waste is currently estimated at N10 billion, which include the payment of allowances to the crew for the trips, hanger parking and rent based on the lease agreement.

“If government could be bankrolling this waste in the face of ever dwindling public resources, it amounts to a misplacement of priority, impudence and breach of public trust, an action that offends the Fiscal Responsibility Act and all other laws on fiscal discipline in Nigeria.”

Adejare explained that an investigation into the matter revealed that the minister was financing the lease of the aircraft with public funds.

At this stage, a member of the parliament, Friday Itulah (PDP, Edo), rose to oppose the motion, but the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, who presided quickly intervened, asking Itulah to stay action until he calls for a debate to oppose the motion.

Itulah, however, explained that the House rule does not create room for motions of this nature to be debated, adding that “we will put it to a voice vote and refer it to the relevant committee for further legislative action”.

When it was put to voice vote, it was unanimously supported by members, and the Speaker ruled that the House Committee on Public Account take charge of the probe and report back to the House within two weeks.

Also, the House directed a probe into alleged non-remittance of funds accruing from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) to the Federation Account from 2004 till date.

The decision to institute probe was a fallout of a motion raised under Matters of Urgent National Importance by Aminu Suleimaan (Kano, APC) at plenary.

In his lead debate, Suleiman drew attention of the House to Section 162(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended which makes it mandatory for all revenue collected by the government of the federation to be remitted into the Federation Account.

Suleiman said according to the provisions of Section 162 sub section 10 of the Constitution, revenue means any income or return accruing to or derived by the government of the federation from any source and includes any receipt.

The lawmaker said the NLNG Bonny, in flagrant disobedience and breach of the Constitution has not remitted funds accruing to it to the Federation Account from 2004 till date.

He said the non-remittance of funds accruing to NLNG Bonny from 2004 till date has adversely affected the Federation Account to the detriment of federal, states and local governments.

“The unpatriotic actions of those in charge of the NLNG Bonny from 2004 till date has resulted in loss of huge revenue that ought to be shared to all tiers of the government from the Federation Account for both recurrent and capital development.

“The non-remittance of funds that accrued to NLNG Bonny to the Federation Account from 2004 till date has badly affected all critical sectors of the Nigerian economy and constitute an economic crime,” he said.

Adopting the motion, the House directed its Committee on Gas to “investigate the non-remittance of funds accruing from NLNG Bonny to the Federation Account from 2004 till date and make appropriate recommendations and report back to the House within three weeks”.

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