Determined to stoke the raging fire of criticism by most Nigerians against rising payments by the government for fuel subsidy, the Presidency on Thursday constituted a Committee to verify and reconcile the records of such payments.
Though about N245billion was appropriated in the 2011 budget for payment of fuel subsidy, the figure rose by over 2,200 per cent to over N2.6trillion as at December of that year, according to the probe report of the House of Representative Committee on the management of the fuel subsidy.
Similarly, although about N232billion was provided for payment of subsidy arrears in the 2012 budget, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister on the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said recently that about N451billion was disbursed before the close of the first quarter of the year to take care of arrears to oil marketers for 2011 alone.
Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, said an additional N50billion was recently released by government for a similar payment, bringing the subsidy bill this year to N501billion so far out of the N888billion provided originally for the purpose in the 2012 budget.
To verify and ascertain subsidy arrears paid to oil marketers, the Federal Ministry of Finance constituted a committee, led by the Group Managing Director, Access Bank Plc, Aigboje Imuokhuede, to look at the payment records.
But, the president said the constitution of another 15-man committee also headed by Mr. Imuokhuede was in fulfilment of his pledge to Nigerians that no person or organization guilty of fuel subsidy fraud or corruption will escape justice over the fuel subsidy payment scam.
Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity), Reuben Abati, listed the terms of reference of the committee to include: to further verify and reconcile all claims made in the report of the Technical Committee on Fuel Subsidy Payments; to properly identify all cases of overpayment and/or irregular payment; to accurately identify all likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation, and to review any other pertinent issues that may arise from its work and make appropriate recommendations.
“On receiving the Verification and Reconciliation Committee’s report, President Jonathan will order whatever action he deems necessary to ensure justice and the full recovery of all fuel subsidy funds that may have been illegally paid,” Mr Abati said.
Inaugurating the committee in Abuja, the president said findings of the Technical Committee mandated to conduct a detailed review of all subsidy claims and payments made in 2011 would guide the decision of the government.
The President gave the committee one week to complete its assignment by Friday, July 13, 2012 as a prelude to immediate action on all identified cases of fraud.
Other members of the new committee include the Director General, Debt Management Office (DMO), Abraham Nwankwo; Group Executive Director (GED) – Finance & Accountsof the Nigerian National petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Bernard, and Mrs. Oyinye Ahuchogu of the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN), and Managing Director, Stanbic/IBTC, Mrs. Sola David-Borha, representing the Banking Community.
Also named in the committee include the National Secretary, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Mike Osatuyi, the Executive Secretary, Major Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Obafemi Olawore; Accountant-General of the Federation, Jonah Otunla; Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Bright Okogwu; Executive Secretary, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Reginald Stanley, and Mrs. Aisha Waziri-Umar as well as Jalal Arabi.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, and the Director-General of the State Security Service, Ita Ekpeyong, would also be represented on the Committee.