OPENING REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY, DISTINGUISHED SENATOR (DR) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, MBBS, AT THE OCCASION OF THE PUBLIC HEARING BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON PETROLEUM DOWNSTREAM ON THE SUBSIDY PAYMENT BY NNPC ON MONDAY 29TH JANUARY 2018.
It is my pleasure to be declaring open this very critically important public hearing by the Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream on the Subsidy Payment by NNPC.
For years, our country has been plagued with the issue of fuel subsidy and for too long, a scheme designed to reduce the burden on the poor has become the cash cow of a few who continue to milk the country dry in trillions under a process so opaque and insulated from public scrutiny called fuel subsidy.
You would recall that it was only after my motion on the 5th of March 2012, with the support of my colleagues in the 7thSenate and after a thorough review and investigation of the scheme we unearthed the monumental fraud bigger than our capital budget for a year going on in the name of fuel subsidy.five years down the line we are back on the same matter. This is not acceptable and we are determined to get to the bottom of it.
Distinguished colleagues, the mere fact that we are here again today to discuss this issue shows that those who benefit from this grand deception are not willing to let loose and government have not done what we need to do to nip this problem in the bud.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this Senate had cut short the end of year recess of this committee to immediately intervene and investigate the root causes of the recent resurfacing of queues at pump stations nationwide. The findings of the committee have brought to light the fact that our downstream oil and gas industry needs critical reforms. It has exposed among other things that in spite of the stoppage of the fuel subsidy regime, and the non-appropriation of funds for the scheme due to the fraud and maladministration going on in the scheme, that fuel subsidy payments continue to be paid from our commonwealth illegally and without appropriation by the National Assembly to a few quietly in order to dodge scrutiny and avoid exposure. But this 8th Senate is here to expose every corruption in the system irrespective of how highly place those involved are and therefore the reason for this public hearing today.
This unconstitutional and illegal practice must be addressed and we are not going to rest until it is fully addressed.
It is the duty of this committee to get to the bottom of this issue and proffer long lasting solutions to this racketeering in the fuel market that leaves the Nigerian people poorer every year.
Other questions this committee must seek answers to are;
(1) What is the actual quantity of fuel the Nigerian market consumes?
(2) What are the underlining reasons why the market is struggling to operate without government intervention, in other words why the reoccurring scarcity?
(3) Third and equally crucial is the process and all those involved in signing out unbudgeted funds outside the budget passed by the National Assembly.
This hearing today spotlights the importance of the recently passed Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), which after many years and several obstacles faced, has been passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives for the first time in 17year and is ready for the assent of Mr. President.
It is our belief that this piece of legislation if implemented to the letter has the potential of eliminating the present distortions in the system and sanitise the governance of the oil and gas industry of corruption and the rot in the system.
It will introduce the market competition that would bring efficiency to the system. It is our hope that this will set the tone for the necessary institutional reform required to clean this all important industry of opacity and maladministration.
Before I close my remark, let me implore the committee to ensure that they carryout a comprehensive investigation of these issues and advise the Senate on appropriate steps to take to make sure that never again are we going to be back here discussing these issues anymore and Nigerians will no longer be queuing to buy fuel at the pump stations ever again.
I am glad that everyone in this room has an interest in stamping out fuel scarcity from our market; we are united to stamping out fraud and corruption in the industry. Therefore, I thank you again for taking time to be here this morning and I look forward to your active participation and what will no doubt be thought-provoking discussions.
With this few words let me formally declare this public hearing open.
God bless you all.
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE