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NLNG Fund Diversion: Senate Reacts To PREMIUM TIMES Report, Vows Probe

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has assured of an investigation into why the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) diverted the dividend from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) to fund petroleum subsidy.

Mr Saraki said the Senate, on resumption of plenary, will further probe the claims made before the Senate ad-hoc committee by the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, on how and why the corporation was diverting the dividend to defray the cost of under-recovery in the importation of fuel.

Mr Saraki’s latest intervention is coming hours after PREMIUM TIMES published documents of how the federal government illegally diverted $1.05 billion (N378 billion at N360 to a dollar) to secretly fund subsidy payment on petroleum products.

Documents published by the newspaper show that the fund was sourced at the height of the fuel scarcity crisis between last December and January and was secretly diverted into payments on petrol supply and distribution.

Dividends from the gas firm are meant to be shared by the federal, state and local governments of Nigeria. The funds are supposed to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation rather than spent unilaterally by any tier of government.

PREMIUM TIMES, in the report, confirmed that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government unilaterally — without required consultation with states and the national assembly– tampered with the NLNG funds. That was also done without appropriation by the National Assembly.

While reacting to questions from journalists at the Ilorin airport, Mr Saraki said he had been inundated by calls from Nigerians who wanted to know the position of the Senate on the matter.

His statement was captured in a press statement by his media aide, Yusuph Olaniyonu.

The Senate President stated that the disclosure by the NNPC boss in response to enquiries by the Senate adhoc committee probing the issue of illegal payment of subsidy on fuel, called for further investigation by the Senate and also showed that as alleged in a motion moved earlier by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujinmi, a lot of illegal and unapproved spending are going on in the petroleum corporation.

“Let me assure Nigerians that there will be no cover up. We are confident the adhoc committee will do a thorough job. All the issues will be unearthed. That is why when the Senate set up investigative committees on issues, we want Nigerians to have confidence in us that we do not act because we want to embark on a wild goose chase. There must be some serious issues to be looked into. The revelations by the NNPC 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 want 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 adhoc committee should be led by the Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan.

“We are however shocked that the NNPC 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 NNPC as the supplier of last resort should, and has, maintained robust petrol supply’.

“So, if the National Assembly called on 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 appropriations law. 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 authorizing 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”, he was quoted as saying.

The Senate will resume for plenary on Tuesday, November 6 after two weeks of recess.

 

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