The Senate on Tuesday set up a committee to investigate $3.5 billion budget recovery fund allegedly spent by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on subsidy.
It is to be headed by Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, and Chairman Senate Committee on Downstream, Kabiru Marafa.
According to a ruling by Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Lawan and Marafa are to “summon those in the NNPC who are responsible and come back to us in four days on a report that we can all debate.”
The matter was earlier brought to the notice of the Senate during plenary by Biodun Olujmi (Ekiti-PDP).
She said, “I bring an issue in today’s ThisDay newspaper and it’s about $3.5 billion budget recovery fund being used by the NNPC.
“It is earmarked as subsidy recovery fund by the NNPC. Mr President since 1999, there has always been a budget for subsidy but this has been jettisoned by the current government, which leaves this administration in a dire situation.
“What is happening is that there is a fund named subsidy recovery fund which is managed by only two individuals of the NNPC, that is the Managing Director and the Executive Director, Finance.
“This fund is too huge for two people to manage. Right now, Mr President, the $3.5 billion is managed by just two and this is too huge to be managed without appropriation, without any recourse to any known law of the land.
“During your remarks after the passage of the budget, you mentioned that there should be a budget for subsidy that it should be brought before the National Assembly. By the report, it is almost certain that the $3.5 billion is slush funds managed by two individuals and that is not correct.
“I urge the Senate to cause the downstream committee to invite the NNPC to explain why it should be so and what has happened to the funds that have been used so far and the new term recovery instead of subsidy approval.”
Saraki’s prior resolution, to have the downstream committee investigate the issue, did not go down well with Ali Ndume who alleged that Marafa’s committee might have been compromised.
Ndume said, “I don’t want to be hard on the committee. I think the committee has the responsibility of oversight, when this happens they are supposed to know. Senator Marafa being chairman of the committee should be out of this.
“The Senate Leader and other members should look at this thing objectively. When you have a large amount of money stacked somewhere, it calls for caution. I’m suggesting that the leader, as distinguished Senator Bukar Abba said – not me – that the committee might have been compromised.”
This resulted in Marafa protesting the allegation, based on order 53.
He said, “I have no problem if we are even asked the committee of downstream to step aside totally or if it is the wish of the committee of selection that is responsible for appointing the various committees, that the committee of downstream be dissolved today. I have no problem with that. I equally have no offence with the submission of Senator Ali Ndume.
“But I have serious exception when he said that the committee compromised. Let it be on record that this senate split the committee into two of public accounts to look into this issue of subsidy while the downstream sector was given the responsibility of looking into the volumes on this same matter.
“For somebody to come out and say, with due respect, that I am managing subsidy programme, that is incorrect. Let all these committees, including the ones held by some people before now, be subjected to scrutiny. I have no problem with that.
“But for this senate to now leave another ad hoc committee to look into the issue of subsidy, it’s like some people are looking for campaign money and I don’t think that’s the best way to get it.”
However, after an apology from Ndume, Saraki ruled that Lawan head the newly constituted committee to investigate the issue of subsidy fraud.