The House of Representatives, yesterday, told the NNPC Limited in clear terms that it must produce before it, the leadership of its 17 subsidiaries indicted by a report of the Auditor-General for the Federation over financial infractions between 2014 and 2019.
Speaking at the resumed investigative hearing on the report of the Auditor General, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Account, Hon Oluwole Oke said the action of the NNPC in shielding its subsidiaries amounted to hiding something from Nigerians.
But the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari told the committee that the company was not hiding anything from Nigerians, while also dismissing earlier media reports that about 107million barrels of crude oil could not be accounted for, in 2018.
Oke said the House was shying away from invoking the provisions of the constitution to issue a warrant of arrest on the leadership of the subsidiaries who have refused to appear before the parliament to answer questions arising from the AuGF report.
Reacting to the statement by the GMD that he would take responsibility for the actions of the subsidiaries, Oke said “With due respect, the parliament differs with you because we are guided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Legislative Houses Privileges Act and our rules.
“Yes, you have submitted a consolidated account. But the Auditor General, who submitted his report to us, conducted an audit pursuant to Section 85 of the Constitution and audited the account of these subsidiaries, published the report and submitted same to the parliament.
“The report specifically mentioned these subsidiaries and having done so, the parliament is duty-bound to take the queries and observations as contained in the report. Aside from this, parliament can also, pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, invite anybody to give evidence before this parliament.
“If a particular agency under your leadership is mentioned, we cannot shave their head in their absence. They have to be here. Yes, you have rendered your account which is before us. But these subsidiaries must appear before this parliament to answer the queries raised by the Auditor-General for the Federation. They have to answer their father’s name.
“With due respect, the NNPC is not in a position to dictate to parliament how it conducts its business. We have to change the impression of Nigerians about NNPC. We have listened to the comments of some governors about NNPC and we must change the narration by telling Nigerians that NNPC operates transparently.
“Except and except you have something to hide, then you can continue to shield these subsidiaries. But they must appear before Nigerians and tell them about the funds in their kitty. They have to come here and answer the queries about the abnormalities the Auditor general observed in their operations. This is our position.
“We don’t want to go through the process of invoking the necessary laws by issuing a warrant of arrest. We believe that we can jaw jaw; that we can discuss because we are all serving Nigerians.
“These companies are your subsidiaries and if we are to go by your assertion that they are registered on their own under CAMA, then it further attests to the fact that they have to appear here by themselves. That is not even the issue, but the Auditor General for the Federation specifically listed the names of these companies. That is our position. So, take a date when you are bringing them.
“Your purpose of coming today is to produce these subsidiaries because you wrote that these agencies are under you. That was why we asked you to bring the leadership of these subsidiaries. That is what we expected today.
“If they are here, they should introduce themselves and the Auditor General will be invited to read out the queries for them to answer because the queries were hot directed to you in person. They were directed to these subsidiaries. We object to your position. They must appear here because this is their parliament. If they are not here, so be it. That is why we said you should give us a date to bring them”.
In his contribution, Hon Chinyere Igwe (PDP, Rivers) said by the admittance of the GMD, he cannot legally stand-in for the subsidiaries since he admitted that they were registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act and operating as individual companies.
He said “by the clarification of the GMD’s statement that these companies are fully registered, it means that they are entities of their own by the provision of the CAC act. As a result of that, the GMD is not totally liable. I, therefore, ask that the GMD allow them to stand on their own because he cannot speak for them.
“Any society that does not have laws, there will be anarchy and lawlessness, with the big killing the small just like we have right Russia killing Ukraine. Based on that, the constitution is the ground norm on which all Nigerians are relating. That is what gave rise to NNPC, parliament, Auditor General.
“By implication, the parliament did not make the Auditor General’s report. But these companies owned by Nigerians have refused to do what they are supposed to do. We have not asked you to come and tell us how many barrels of crude was lifted or how many of that was stolen or who has stolen them.
“There are silent questions raised by the Auditor General which they must tell us. We are not doing anything out of the ordinary, but just being guided by the ground norms in line with the constitution.”
In his remarks, the Group Managing Director of NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari said, “First, let me clarify an issue. NNPC has nothing to hide. We have nothing to hide from Nigerians. In view of that, we have published the same audited account that you have for Nigerians to see, read and comment on.
“Those accounts are a complete reflection of all our transactions, including our subsidiary companies. So, we are hiding nothing from Nigerians.
“I agree with you that we can be more transparent. Can we do something different from this? Absolutely yes. Are we doing enough? Yes, we are doing more than enough. No national oil company in this world publishes its audited statement of account. There is no company that publishes its monthly report as we do.
“Therefore, I expect that you should congratulate us that we are doing more than expectations in terms of transparency and accountability. We owe this to Nigerians because it is their company and we sincerely believe that this companies art owned by the over 200million Nigerians, we are accountable to them and we must be transparent by every means possible.
“But as we do this, we must also recognise that we are running a business on their behalf of this business has rules and responsibilities and part of it is to have a report of this nature which the Auditor General endorses by law for them to deliver on”.
On the ruling of the committee, the GMD said, “It is still very fair because I know that this is a very fair parliament. You are representatives of the people and so, have a responsibility to protect the people. You also have a responsibility to allow us to speak”.
Reacting to the reported missing of 107million barrels of crude oil, Kyari said, “I believe that this parliament represents all Nigerians collectively. We can have individual differences, but we all represent the interest of Nigerians. The image of Nigeria is very important.
“Two weeks ago, it was in all the media that 107million barrels of crude were stolen or diverted. You will not appreciate the evil of the bad image this has created for our country.
“Our lending partners have called me that this is a wrong approach and that they will not lend to us without clarifying issues. Auditor General is here and we are in the same country. We are all serving this country. You can’t declare something like that without it having an effect and if we don’t respond to this, it will be obvious that it is what is happening in our country.
“Nobody has stolen 107million barrels of crude oil. If for any reason, it was not well captured by the Auditor General, it is a different issue. So, this company is hiding nothing from none and we will appear before you as directed next week. But have it at the back of your mind that we have nothing to hide.”
RSHA: Amaewhule-Led Lawmakers Defy Court Order, Elect New Leaders
The crisis rocking the Rivers State House of Assembly took a new twist on Wednesday as lawmakers loyal to the former Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, sat under tight security in the complex.
This is contrary to the court order asking the two factions of the State House of Assembly to maintain the status quo pending the determination of a suit filed by the Edison Ehie faction.
Recall that Ehie faction had obtained a court order that parties should maintain the status quo pending the determination of a suit seeking to sack Amaewhule as the House Speaker.
The Rivers Assembly had become factionalised following an unsuccessful move to impeach Governor Siminialayi Fubara.
The Amaewhule-led lawmakers are believed to be loyal to Fubara’s predecessor and political godfather, Nyesom Wike.
It was learnt that ahead of Wednesday’s sitting, cleaners had on Tuesday been deployed to clean up the Assembly complex, which had been under locks, since October 29, following an explosion in the complex the night before.
One of the cleaners said they were instructed to tidy up the complex ahead of a sitting on Wednesday.
It was gathered that the Wednesday sitting was held for about two hours as a team of riot policemen and security vans were stationed in front of the House to prevent any breaches.
It was gathered that the lawmakers elected a former Chief Whip as the new Majority Leader of the Assembly.
The member, representing Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Constituency 1, Frankline Nwabochi, was named the new Chief Whip.
An unsigned statement sent to the Assembly Press Corps obtained by The Tide said the two new principal officers accordingly took their oath of office.
Amaewhule congratulated them, charging them to be committed to their new responsibilities.
According to the statement, the lawmakers also passed the first reading of a Bill seeking to amend the Rivers State Local Government Law, No. 5 of 2018.
They also debated on the Rivers State House of Assembly Funds Management (Financial Autonomy) Bill, 2023, which passed second reading on Wednesday.
Amaewhule who described the Bill as important, expressed his conviction that Governor Fubara would assent to it after the lawmakers finally pass it.
He hinted that the governor had withheld funds meant for the Assembly for the month of November.
He said the lawmakers were determined to perform their constitutional duties despite the distractions.
He thereafter referred the Bill to the House Committee on Public Accounts for public hearing and further legislative scrutiny.
The other faction of the Assembly led by Ehie, and loyal to Fubara, had yet to react to the Wednesday development as of the time of filing this report.
Ogoni Group Mulls Recall Of Lawmakers Over Foiled Fubara’s Impeachment
An Advocacy group in Rivers State, Ogoni Development Drive (ODD), says it has begun the process to recall four Ogoni lawmakers from the Rivers House of Assembly over their alleged roles in the botched impeachment of Governor Similanayi Fubara.
The lawmakers are Dumle Maol (PDP, Gokana constituency), Barile Nwakoh (PDP, Khana), Aforji Igwe (PDP, Eleme) and Bernard Ngba (PDP, Tai).
The group’s Convener, Comrade Solomon Lenu, made this known at a news conference in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Recall that Fubara survived an alleged impeachment plot on October 30.
ODD said it had on November 10 issued a seven-day ultimatum to the four Ogoni lawmakers who partook in the plot that attempted to serve an impeachment notice to Governor Fubara.
The four lawmakers, now suspended, were asked to apologise to the Ogoni people whom they represent and to Gov. Fubara for denigrating his exalted office or risk being recalled.
“Instead of heeding this advice and embracing the olive branch extended to them, they rather embarked on an egocentric escapade,” the group said.
Lenu further said the lawmakers rather than heed to the advice by ODD, engaged in various meetings that purportedly plotted to unseat the governor.
“Governor Fubara was collectively voted for by the entire Rivers people, and as such, the action by the lawmakers has not gone well with all men and women of conscience.
“It is illogical for the erring assembly members to think it is right to impeach an innocent governor for no just cause but wrong to recall them for erring against their constituents.
“The suspended lawmakers called a bluff of ODD ultimatum, and so, we have decided to carry out this recall process in earnest, to put our democracy aright,” he said.
Lenu said the group had already reached an advanced level in sensitising and mobilising the lawmaker’s constituents to recall them.
He said that ODD had also obtained the comprehensive voters’ register of all voters in the four local government areas and constituencies.
According to him, an electronic capture form has also been created to make the petition process easier for students at various tertiary school campuses and those on holiday to sign the petition.
“So far, the response from the aggrieved constituents has been very impressive, and we shall in a few weeks’ time complete the compilation of the required signatures.
“The signatures are required for INEC to call for a referendum, which shall be carried out in branches with strict security guidance, to abort any sinister counterplot against democracy.
“We know this process is not going to be easy, but we are ready to go all the way, to create a sense of responsibility in our elected leaders,” he said.
Lenu said instilling a sense of responsibility in politicians and elected leaders would further entrench democratic tenets in the country.
The ODD convener called on the people of Ogoni to come forward and sign the petition, to end political “jamboree and illicit godfatherism” in the state.
The Tide reports that 26 lawmakers on Oct. 30 proceeded to impeach Fubara but were stopped by four pro-Fubara lawmakers led by Ehie Edison (PDP-Ahoada East II).
Mr Martins Amaewhule (Obio Akpor constituency), a close ally of a former governor, was later ousted as Speaker and Ehie sworn in as the new Speaker.
However, Amaewhule insists that he is still the Speaker of the House of Assembly, resulting in some form of confusion over the office of the Speaker.
FRSC Commander Faces Sanction Over Unauthorised Comments
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), yesterday, disowned the Unit Commander, Central Business District Unit Command, Assistant Corps Commander IL Ibrahim, over his recent statement on Vehicle Inspection Officers, otherwise known as Directorate of Road Traffic Services.
Ibrahim was quoted to have said that VIO officials did not have the right to arrest road traffic violators, including overloaded vehicles and motorists caught using phones while driving.
But Deputy Corps Marshal, Bisi Kazeem, in a statement, yesterday, said Ibrahim’s comment was not the position of the Corps.
Kazeem added that the concerned official had been recalled to the national headquarters for necessary disciplinary action.
The statement read, “The Federal Road Safety Corps wishes to make a pertinent clarification regarding the pronouncement by the Unit Commander, Central Business District Unit Command, Assistant Corps Commander IL Ibrahim, that Vehicle Inspection Officers, otherwise known as Directorate of Road Traffic Services, do not have the right to arrest road traffic violators, including overloaded vehicles and motorists caught using phones while driving.
“The general public is advised to disregard the statement as it had no approval of the Corps Marshal, Dauda Ali Biu, and does not in anyway reflect the corporate or general position of the Corps.
“It is important for the public know that the laws establishing VIOs/State Traffic Management Agencies give them the statutory mandate to make arrests on different offences depending on the state within which they operate. As such, the agencies should be given the maximum cooperation for the enhancement of safety on our roads.
“On this note and in line with sustaining the Corps’ resolve that road safety is a collective responsibility, and in acknowledgement of the roles the State Traffic Management Agencies like the Vehicle Inspection Officers play in complementing the statutory responsibilities of the FRSC through enforcement of traffic laws, the Corps Marshal has ordered the immediate withdrawal of the Unit Commander to the national headquarters for necessary administrative and disciplinary actions.
“The public is admonished to always comply with all established traffic regulations and cooperate with security agencies deployed to maintain law and order on the highways, irrespective of their corporate mandate.”
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