A defiant Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, on Tuesday accused the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Subsidy Probe of unfair judgment.
The House of Representatives subsidy probe had indicted the minister of alleged unconstitutional deductions by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for subsidy claims.
The committee had also faulted her over the Kero-Direct scheme initiated by NNPC in July 2011 to help distribute household kerosene (HHK) to consumers nationwide. The House committee on subsidy alleged that the scheme was implemented in defiance of a subsisting presidential directive removing kerosene from the subsidy regime.
Consequently, it recommended in its report, that the Minister and the NNPC be asked to refund the over N310.42billion deductions taken illegally as subsidy arrears for kerosene supplied between 2009 and 2010.
But reacting, Tuesday, to the committee’s recommendations for the first time since the report was released and adopted by the House of Representatives, the minister said she was not aware of any presidential directive that she violated since her appointment.
“May be there was another presidential directive that existed between 2006 and 2009 before I was appointed minister of petroleum”, she said.
“What I am aware of is that under Section 6 of the Petroleum Act, the Minister for Petroleum may, by notice, published in the official gazette, fix the price for petroleum products, which means that for a change to actually become a law, the Minister must publish in the media, to inform all stakeholders that that petroleum products price has changed”.
“I do not recall that that publication was done till 2009. If it is not published and gazetted, it was not a directive that can be legally complied with,” she said.
“The laws that we were given or the directive given by the current president, who put us in office, have in fact been complied with to the letter of the law. Therefore, they were published in the national papers in the media and gazetted.”
On the direct deductions from source by the NNPC for subsidy claims, Mrs. Alison-Madueke said the committee had no right to fault her decision as the Chairman of the Board of the Corporation to allow the deductions. She said that the issue is subject to judicial interpretation of the provisions of the constitution.
“I do believe that this is clearly a matter of interpretation of the provisions of the constitution, vis-à-vis the provisions of the Appropriation Act,” she said. “Such interpretative powers are vested exclusively in the judiciary of the country.
“It is only the courts of the land that are invested with the relevant powers and authorities to determine whether the Appropriation Act, on the basis of which NNPC says it deducted at source, in conjunction with the constitution that allows NNPC to deduct subsidy claims from source or not.
“Considering that the issue is that of interpretation of the law, in which case the courts may take a different view from that taken by the House, it was probably quite unfair for the Committee to conclude that the minister did not take appropriate steps to stop the practice that has been on long before I came into appointment.”