*Approves more N129bn for 67 marketers
*NASS holds valedictory session June 6
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi, Musa Adamu, Christiana Ekpa and Umar Puma
The Senate yesterday fumed that Nigeria has expended N11 trillion to oil marketers as subsidy in the last six years, just as it cautioned that the huge subsidy payment if left unchecked, could kill the economy.
This is just as the National Assembly has adjourned plenary till June 6 for its valedictory session, when it will officially end the four year life of the 8th session of the National Assembly.
This came while the Senate was considering the reports of its Committee on Petroleum Downstream during which the lawmakers took turn to lament the excessive subsidy payments which they questioned the validity.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC Zamfara Central), who presented the report to his colleagues said that Nigeria spent over N11trn to pay outstanding subsidy claims in the last six years.
In another development, the red chamber also approved the payment of additional N129 billion 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 reads, “That due to scarcity of Forex within the period, Oil Marketing Companies were allowed to source Forex outside CBN rate to enable them meet the country’s petroleum products demand.
“That NNPC Retail get their petroleum product allocation directly from PPPMC at already subsidized 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 N13.7 billion, Northwest Petroleum N11.4 billion, Masters Energy N10 billion, MRS Oil PLC N8.8 billion and Sahara Energy N8.4 billion.
Others are: MRS Oil & Gas Limited N6.3 billion, Nipco PLC N4.2 billion, Forte Oil N3.9 billion, DEEJONES Petroleum & Gas N4.1 billion, Emadeb N4 billion among others.
The senators, before approving the payment, berated the Federal Government for paying subsidy to oil marketers over the years without approval from the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly.
Senator Barnabas Gemade (SDP Benue North East) in his contribution, asked 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 regretted 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 subsidy payment when it came into 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 and all of will be accused to it.”
Senator Victor Umeh (APGA, Anambra) 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 sale of our crude to build refineries?
“The government should give us a programme to enable us 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”.
In his ruling after the debate, 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 they do not encroach on the appropriation responsibility of the National Assembly.
“We need to do something about 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 N10.8 bn was approved as subsidy claim to Tanzila Petroleum Company, while another N58.1 bn was okayed for 19 oil marketing companies.