President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, has said the upper chamber of the National Assembly will on Tuesday (today) further probe the claims by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Maikanti Baru, on how and why the corporation diverted the dividends from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas to maintain the N145-per-litre pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol).
The Senate had set up an ad hoc committee chaired by the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, to investigate an alleged $3.5bn account kept by the NNPC for petrol subsidy payment.
Baru had, while appearing before the committee last week, said the NNPC had only spent $1.05bn from the NLNG dividend account to defray the cost of “under-recovery” in the importation of fuel.
Saraki, while reacting to questions from newsmen at the Ilorin Airport, according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said he had received series of telephone calls on the issue from many concerned Nigerians.
He said the callers wanted to know the position of the Senate on the issues raised by NNPC’s GMD before the Lawan-led committee.
The Senate President stated that the disclosure by the NNPC boss in response to enquiries by the Senate panel called for further investigation by the chamber. He said it also showed that, as alleged in a motion moved earlier by the Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, “a lot of illegal and unapproved spending are going on in the petroleum corporation.”
Saraki added, “There must be some serious issues to be looked into. The revelations by the NNPC’s GMD have justified the need for this investigation and they have shown that we are acting in good faith.
“When in my ruling on the motion raised by Senator Olujimi, I insisted that we wanted a transparent, honest and non-partisan investigation on the fuel subsidy issue, it was clear to me and my colleagues that there are certain irregularities being perpetrated and we should let Nigerians know the truth. That is why we set up the committee in the first place. And to demonstrate the seriousness we attach to the issue, we decided that the ad hoc committee should be led by the Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan.
“We are, however, shocked that the NNPC’s GMD was claiming that the illegal diversion of dividends from the NLNG, which should be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation for the purpose of funding the fuel subsidy, was done ‘in compliance with the National Assembly directive that the NNPC as the supplier of last resort should, and has, maintained robust petrol supply.’
“So, if the National Assembly called on the NNPC to carry out its legitimate duty of ensuring adequate fuel supply to Nigerians, the GMD logically thinks the corporation, by that call, has the license to perpetrate illegality, spend money without approval and violate appropriation laws. It is my belief that if the National Assembly said the corporation should perform its duty effectively as a supplier of fuel to Nigerians without exposing people to needless suffering, that ought to be done within the ambit of the law.
“This investigation will require the GMD to produce the approval given by the National Assembly and other necessary approving bodies authorising the NNPC to divert the dividend from the NLNG investment, which ought to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund belonging to the three tiers of government, for the payment of fuel subsidy.”
Saraki assured Nigerians that there would be no cover-up, stressing that he was confident that the panel would do a thorough job.
“All the issues will be unearthed,” he added.