|Hon Farouk Lawal|
THE House of Representatives probe panel on subsidy fund mismanagement has recommended that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency and 72 other firms refund N1.07tn said to have been fraudulently paid to oil marketers.
To be part of the refund is also the Office of the Accountant–General which allegedly paid N127.8bn within 24 hours to unknown beneficiaries. The AGF paid N999m 28 times in one day to the “unknown entities.”
The affected firms as well as the AGF office are expected to make the refund of the sum, said to have been the excess paid to marketers involved in fuel-importation racketeering “within three months.”
These are contained in the report of the House AdHoc Committee on Monitoring of the Subsidy Regime, led by Hon. Farouk Lawal, submitted on Wednesday.
The committee was set up in the wake of the nationwide uproar that greeted the January removal of subsidy on fuel by the Federal Government and the controversies arising from the management of the subsidy fund.
The committee, which recommended the immediate unbundling of the NNPC, also established that the total subsidy claims paid by the Federal Government in 2011 was N2.587tn.
It said that the figure represented “more than 900 per cent over the appropriated sum of N245bn” originally budgeted for subsidy in the 2011 budget.
The report says, “This figure of N2.58tn is based on the Central Bank of Nigeria figure of N844.9bN paid to the NNPC, in addition to another N847.9bn reflected as withdrawals by the NNPC from the naira excess crude account, as well as the sum of N894.2bn paid as subsidy to the marketers.
“The figure of N847.9bn quoted above strongly suggests that NNPC might have been withdrawing from two sources, especially when the double withdrawals were also reflected both in 2009 and in 2010.
“However, it should be noted that as at the time the public hearing was concluded, there were outstanding claims by NNPC and marketers in excess of N270bn as subsidy payment in 2011.”
A breakdown of the N1.07tn recommended for refund showed that the NNPC would return N310.4bn for subsidy it fraudulently claimed for kerosene.
The corporation is to cough up another N285bn it claimed for fuel imports “above the PPPRA recommendation.” Another amount of N108.6bn was listed against the NNPC as “self-discount.”
The PPPRA was asked to refund N312bn it paid to itself, while the marketers who “violated Petroleum Subsidy Fund” were directed to return N8.6bn to government treasury.
In the category of defaulting firms, who also “refused to appear” before the panel, it recommended the recovery of N41.9bn.
The panel raised the alarm over the existence of “unnamed entities,” which it said claimed N999m “128 times to the tune of N127.8bn.”
It called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other antigraft agencies to investigate the operations of these agencies along with the “questionable” claim of $402.6bn Foreign Exchange.
“The 72 companies listed under the financial forensics are hereby recommended for further investigation by the relevant anti-corruption agencies, with a view to establishing their culpability and recovering the sums indicated against their names totalling N230.1bn,” the panel noted.
A curious case established by the panel in respect of subsidy payments in 2009 was an unnamed Accountant-General, who approved the payment of N999m 128 times “within 24 hours on the 12th and 13th of January 2009, totalling N127.8bn.”
“The confirmed payments from the CBN records were made to beneficiaries yet to be disclosed by the OAGF or identified by the committee”, the report noted.
The panel was particularly hard on the NNPC over its tendency to deduct subsidy claims without recourse to any approving authority and the alleged abuse of the 445,000bpd of crude it took for domestic refining.
It raised doubts over the financial status of the NNPC and recommended the “auditing of the NNPC to determine its solvency.”
The panel said members were concerned because of the “plethora of claims of indebtedness and demands for payments by NNPC’s debtors, which if not well handled, will not only affect the entire economy of Nigeria, but also the supply and distribution of petroleum products.”
Among the outstanding debts, according to the panel’s findings, are N46bn (Nigeria Customs Service); N6bn (Nigeria Ports Authority); and N$3.5bn (Trafigura et al).
It noted that Nigeria could no longer afford to maintain the NNPC’s bogus structure and recommended the unbundling of the corporation.
It said, “The committee recommends that the NNPC should be unbundled to make its operations more efficient and transparent, and this we believe can also be achieved through the passage of a well-drafted and comprehensive Petroleum Industry Bill.
“The committee therefore urges the speedy drafting and submission of the bill to the National Assembly.”
All members of staff of the NNPC, PPPPRA and DPR involved in the processing of applications for fuel imports were recommended for investigation for “negligence, collusion and fraud.”
The panel determined the “probable” daily consumption of Premium Motor Spirit for the country, saying that out of the total volume of 14.7bn litres imported in 2011, over-invoicing accounted for 3.2bn litres.
“Thus, the actual volume imported for 2011 was 11.5bn litres.This manifested into an average of daily PMS consumption of 31.5m litres”, it said.
For kerosene, the panel recommended nine million litres as the daily ordering quantity.
Based on its findings, the panel recommended the sum of N806.7bn as subsidy provision for 2012, covering PMS and kerosene. This was broken into N529.9bn for PMS and N249bn for kerosene.
A provision of N27.7bn was made for a first quarter strategic reserve of 7m litres of PMS.
As a Lawan laid the report in plenary on Wednesday, the Speaker of the House, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, directed that copies should be circulated to all 360 lawmakers latest by Thursday (today).
But, a mild drama ensued, as a member, Mr. Ali Maigari, raised a point of order calling for an executive session. His request came as Lawan made to submit the report.
Maigari said he wanted the closed-door session to hold after the report was laid. He was obliged by the House.
At the session, which lasted over one hour, members reportedly expressed concern over the “circulation of conflicting and distorted versions” of the panel’s report.
Lawan was said to have absolved himself of blame, insisting that the earlier versions did not come from the panel.
“We also discussed the 2012 budget, especially as it affects provisions for our constituency projects”, a lawmaker confided in The PUNCH.
April 19, 2012 by John Ameh