Peoples Democratic Party members in the House of Representatives and their All Progressives Congress colleagues nearly exchanged blows on Wednesday over the investigation into the N1.7tn spent on kerosene subsidy by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), which is conducting the investigation, had summoned the Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Dr. Bright Okogu, to testify.
But, trouble started when Okogu addressed the committee and was questioned by the APC members.
Some of the APC members had asked him to tell the committee where the NNPC got the legal backing to deduct kerosene subsidy before remitting revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
But PDP members opposed the line of questioning by their APC colleagues. They argued that NNPC officials should answer questions relating to the corporation’s operations and not the Budget Office DG.
At this point, one APC lawmaker from Kaduna State, Mr. Bala Yusuf, stated that there should be no boundaries on questions.
“Let us not downplay the significance of this gathering by arguing along party lines because this is an issue of serious national importance,” he advised.
In his bid to restore order, the Chairman of the committee, Mr. Dakuku Peterside, also an APC member from Rivers State, objected to a point of order raised by some PDP members.
But the PDP members accused him of being partisan.
The vocal PDP members were Mr. Raphael Nnnana-Igbokwe, Mr. Emmanuel Ekong, and Mr. Sunday Karimi.
Igbokwe in particular, shouted at Yusuf and Peterside saying, “This is not a private enterprise; again, this is not the Committee on Finance.”
As Peterside struggled to restore order, he shouted, “If your (Peterside) ruling is biased, we will challenge the ruling.
“This is not a private enterprise. Let the NNPC answer questions relating to its operations. You (Peterside) cannot hold the DG, Budget Office responsible for NNPC operations.”
On his part, Karimi asked, “DG, do you have the competence and authority to speak for the NNPC or the Central Bank of Nigeria?”
Okogu replied that he could not answer questions that should ordinarily be directed at the management of the NNPC.
In his efforts to dismiss the claim that he was taking sides, Peterside said, “From time to time, we have our misunderstanding. We are before the public, let us respect ourselves as gentlemen.”
As disagreements persisted, Peterside adjourned the session for a few hours to allow time for tempers to cool down.
Before the adjournment, Okogu had confirmed that the budget office had not make any provision for kerosene subsidy in the national budgets since 2010.
However, he clarified that the NNPC was in business and must find a way to pay for any extra expenditure it incurred above the officially approved price of the product.
He said, “If they (NNPC) buy kerosene from the international market at $1 per litre for instance and sells for less than half of a dollar, they must pay for the shortfall due to the subsidised nature of the product.
“So, it only makes a business sense if they source money elsewhere to pay for such amount that must have been cut down from the cost which the consumers must have borne.”
The committee resumed two and half hours and investigation progressed smoothly. (Punch)tweet