Senate flays FG for spending N11tn on subsidy in six years
The Senate on Thursday flayed the payment of N11tn to oil marketers as subsidy in the last six years, stressing that the development, if not halted, could kill the nation’s economy.
The upper chamber took the decision while considering the report of its Committee on the Downstream Petroleum Sector.
The Chairman of the committee, Kabir Marafa, had while presenting the report, told his colleagues that Nigeria spent over N11tn to pay outstanding subsidy claims in the last six years.
The development came just as the upper chamber, on Thursday, approved the payment of additional N129bn subsidy claims to 67 petroleum marketers.
The Senate had earlier on Tuesday approved the payment of N68.9bn as subsidy claims to 20 petroleum marketers.
Marafa’s report read in part, “That due to the scarcity of forex within the period, oil marketing companies were allowed to source forex outside the CBN rate to enable them to meet the country’s petroleum products demand.
“That NNPC Retail get their petroleum product allocation directly from PPMC at an already subsidised rate and so does not require forex to transact its business.”
Some of the oil marketers and the amount approved for them include Total Nigeria Plc, N13.7bn; Northwest Petroleum, N11.4bn; Masters Energy, N10bn; MRS Oil Plc, N8.8bn; and Sahara Energy, N8.4bn.
Others are MRS Oil & Gas Limited, N6.3bn, Nipco Plc, N4.2bn; Forte Oil, N3.9bn; DEEJONES Petroleum & Gas, N4.1bn; and Emadeb, N4bn, among others.
The senators, before approving the payment, berated the Federal Government for paying subsidy to oil marketers over the years without the Senate’s approval.
Senator Barnabas Gemade wondered why the Federal Government and the anti-graft agencies had failed to convict any of the oil marketers who were indicted in the illegal subsidy claims.
He noted with regret that the government had not done enough in bringing the owners of the affected 50 oil firms to justice many years after their prosecution.
He said, “What has happened to those who defrauded the nation? I believe that the 9th Senate will do justice to know what has happened to this money.”
Gemade also reminded the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government of its pledge to stop subsidy payment when it came into power in 2015.
He said, “The government should stand by its words. If the government fails to end the subsidy regime, it will kill the Nigerian economy.”
Others who contributed and condemned the subsidy payment were Senators Bassey Akpan, Victor Umeh and Mathew Uroghide.
Umeh said, “If we continue to hope that one day this subsidy will end, we are deceiving ourselves. What would Nigerians face after this payment of arrears?”
“People in government have refused to face the problem. Everyone is depending on oil revenue and yet no functional refineries have been set in place.
“The government should be able to plan to build five refineries; why can’t we use the money we get from the sale of our crude to build refineries?
“The government should give us a programme to enable us to have four functional refineries in five years.
“Exchange rates are not the problem, but our inability to do what others are doing is the main issue.”
Uroghide, in his contribution, said, “Government should be serious in their policies and not be directionless in executing these policies.”
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said, “I hope that the next Assembly will be able to sit with the Executive to address this issue and resolve it without creating unnecessary tension.
“The NNPC needs to also caution itself so that it does not encroach on the appropriation responsibility of the National Assembly.
“We need to do something about the provisions of refineries in our country – it is not rocket science. Even if it does not resolve the issue of subsidy, we would have gone a long way in addressing it.”
The breakdown showed that N10.8bn was approved as subsidy claim to Tanzila Petroleum Company, while N58.1 bn was okayed for 19 oil marketing companies.