In spite of the allegations of massive corruption linking their offices to the shoddy management of fuel subsidy fund, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Austen Oniwon, say they are not contemplating resignation from office on the strength of the report of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Probe.
The committee had last week released a damning report indicting the minister and the NNPC boss for superintending over the activities of several agencies and departments found to have perpetrated corruption by mismanaging payment of subsidies under the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) scheme between 2009 and 2011.
Following the release of the report, some Nigerians have consistently called on the minister and the NNPC to step down from their positions.
But the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the NNPC, Levi Ajuonuma, who spoke through one of his personal aides told Premium Times in a telephone interview on Sunday that neither the minister nor the corporation’s boss was contemplating resignation any time soon on the basis of the committee’s report.
Mr. Ajuonuma, who doubles as the spokesman for the two top officials, dismissed calls by some Nigerians asking the minister and the NNPC boss to step down, describing such suggestions as presumptuous and premature.
“As you are aware, the report has just been laid before the House,” the aide, who would not want his name mentioned, said. “It is yet to be adopted for deliberation by the entire House. So, the report is still largely the ordinary opinion of the committee and its members.
“To that extent, it is presumptuous and absolutely premature for anyone, whether he is the GMD or the minister, to talk about wanting to resign or not.
“Until the entire House deliberates exhaustively on the findings and recommendations of the committee and come up with a resolution, it cannot be taken seriously.”
Some of the allegations against the minister include a unilateral reintroduction of kerosene subsidy in spite of a subsisting presidential directive stopping the continued inclusion of the commodity in the subsidy scheme.
The minister was also accused of presiding over a regime of unbridled corruption and conniving with the NNPC to illegally deduct from source its share of subsidy claims from the Federation Account, thereby depleting the distributable pool available to the three tiers of government, in violation of the provisions of the constitution.
“Given the widespread nature of abuses, fraud, sharp practices, manipulations, massive corruption and inefficiencies that held sway in the management of the various agencies under the Ministry, it is very clear that the Ministry failed in its supervisory responsibilities,” the committee report said.
“The Committee could not establish any punitive measures taken by the Ministry to stem the massive corruption or to bring perpetrators to book. Instances of the turning of importation by PPPRA into a bazaar, illegal payments to itself by PPPRA, extra-budgetary expenditures, illegal deductions for kerosene subsidy, and payment above PPPRA recommended figures by NNPC, inefficient and fraudulent system of kerosene distribution by PPMC and several other acts of malfeasance attest to this.”
The committee went ahead to recommend that the President reorganize the Ministry of Petroleum Resources into two, with a Minister each appointed to take charge of the upstream and downstream sector, to make for a more effective handling of the reforms in the oil and gas sector.
For Mr. Oniwon the report accused the NNPC of, among other acts of corruption and malfeasance, of replicating receipts for fuel subsidy claims from both the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as well as unilateral deductions from revenues realised from its operation between 2009 and 2011 totaling over N285.098billion.