From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipreye Sylva was absent, yesterday, as the House of Representatives commenced investigation into the payment of subsidy for Premium Motor Spirit ( PMS).
The House had last month adopted a motion calling for an investigation into the fuel subsidy regime in the country between 2017-2021.
However, at the commencement of the probe, yesterday, Sylva, Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Federal Inland Revenue Service ( FIRS), and some of oil marketers were absent.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, while declaring open the public hearing organised by the House Special Ad-hoc Committee probing petroleum product subsidy regime from 2017-2021, said about N4.9 trillion was spent on fuel subsidy in the period under review.
However, Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the deputy speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase, at yesterday’s meeting expressed dismay over the absence of the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) at the investigative hearing. He said there was no excuse for the absence of the MDAs and other critical stakeholders in the oil and gas sector.
“I am expressing my displeasure by the attitude of stakeholders in the oil and gas industry that are supposed to be here. Nobody has any excuse not to be here, that shows lack of respect for constituted authority and I think we are not going to take it.”
The speaker charged the panel to ensure that it was thorough in its investigation and that there were no sacred cows.
Chairman of the panel, Ibrahim Al-Mustapha Aliyu, while speaking at the investigative hearing, said it was unfortunate that some of the stakeholders in the oil and gas sector were treating the probe with levity.
“This attitude is unfortunate, unacceptable, condemnable and undemocratic and an infraction on the separation of powers of the legislature in carrying out one of its legitimate functions of oversight. It’s more worrisome that this is happening during an era of change by the very people who should be in the vanguard of the change mantra to this administration. But they are treating a matter such as this with levity and contempt.”
Consequently, the panel directed Sylva and the NNPC to appear before it on Wednesday next week. The panel also directed the NNPC to submit details of all oil companies and other parties involved in the crude oil swap, direct sales and direct purchase agreement and fuel subsidy payment.