PROBE OF 1.2TRILLION SPENT ON FUEL SUBSIDY WITHOUT NASS APPROVAL STALLED BY SGF, MINISTER’S ABSENCE

John Ameh, Abuja

The House of Representatives’ bid to investigate the N1.4tn allegedly spent on fuel subsidy by the current administration was stalled on Thursday due to the absence of key government officials.

The money was spent without appropriation by the National Assembly.

The 2017 budget had no provision for subsidy and there is no sub-head for it in the 2018 Appropriation Bill awaiting passage by the National Assembly.

But the government has so far incurred around N1.4tn on subsidy payments in the guise of “under-recovery.”

The House had directed its Joint Committees on Finance and Petroleum Resources (Downstream) to investigate the subsidy payout.

The investigation is jointly chaired by Mr.  Babangida Ibrahim (APC, Katsina) and Mr. Joseph Akinlaja (PDP, Ondo).

But at the committees’ public hearing on Thursday, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; the Minister of Finance; Mrs. Kemi Adeosun; and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, failed to turn up.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo-Udoma, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Maikanti Baru, also stayed away from the hearing.

Other heads of agencies invited to the session were the Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, Mordecai Ladan; and the Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency, Abdulkadir Umar-Saidu.

None of the officials honoured the invitation personally.

Babangida, sounding exasperated, told the session how Adeosun, Kachikwu and Baru, wrote to inform them they would be unavailable.

He stated, “Yesterday and today, we received three correspondences from Kachikwu, Adeosun and the NNPC.

“The minister said he is currently outside the country. He directed the NNPC GMD and the DPR to respond to the committee’s requests.

“Today, we received a letter from the NNPC. The GMD is requesting that we give him another date convenient to us for him to appear.

“As for the finance minister, she says she is unable to make it to the hearing as she is currently leading the Nigerian delegation at the International Monetary Fund meeting, from where she will represent the country in Paris.”

As for the SGF and Udo-Udoma, the lawmaker informed the session that they did not bother to write the House why they stayed away, while Adeosun too did not send a representative to the hearing.

Members criticised the attitude of the top officials, saying that they showed disregard for the National Assembly.

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