Senators are regarded as more prominent and serious-minded political figures than members of the House of Representatives usually because they represent larger constituencies and are supposed to be more matured in terms of experience both in politics and industry/public service. But every day that passes, the Nigerian arena ostensibly shows that it is an exact opposite of everything a senate should be, mirroring it against the American standard which we are modeling. Is it not a shame that for whatever motives, which no doubt bothers heavily on self-interest, the Nigerian senate is being serially ridiculed as unserious, without integrity and grossly corrupt not from outside but from within while the leadership of the upper chamber just watches with nonchalance?
The Senate Committee on Finance which investigated the allegations by the immediate past Central Bank governor that $49.8 billion was not remitted by the NNPC into the Federation Account in its final report as submitted said their findings show that the amount was not missing. And this report was signed by the committee’s Chairman, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, and nine other members.
According to the chairman of the committee, the CBN, NNPC, Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources had agreed after reconciliation that the sum of 47 billion dollars out of the 67 billion dollars had been credited to the Federation Account. And the shortfall of $20 billion was traced to the NNPC’s expenditure on fuel subsidy especially kerosene within the period under review.
As stated, “The committee could not see how the figure of 49.8 billion dollars was arrived at by the CBN governor in the first instance,” adding that “The problem of non-remittance of revenues by the NNPC was not new and it was not the CBN that first disclosed it.” And to address this, it was recommended that inter-agencies reconciliation meetings between institutions such as the Ministry of Finance, NNPC, CBN and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) should be done on regular basis as such regular meetings among those sensitive economic institutions would prevent a recurrence of this situation and ensure that all revenues were properly and legally accounted for.
Is it not curious that ever since the committee submitted its report on the matter, the senator representing Kwara Central District, Alhaji Bukola Saraki, has been struggling to tell Nigerians that he was not privy to the committee’s findings as presented and never signed any report pertaining to the investigation of the alleged missing $49.8 billion/$20 billion.
As explained by the Senator’s media aide in the latest statement issued in Abuja last week, the names listed in the report as published by a national daily newspaper were just the names of the members of the Committee and not those who signed the final report.
According to him, “While we are not denying the fact that Senator Saraki is a member of the Senate committee on Finance, and whereas we also (acknowledges) that Senator Saraki participated actively in almost all of the committee’s assignment as it affects the investigation of the unremitted US$48.9 Billion oil revenue by NNPC, the office of Senator Saraki wish to state categorically and further deny that Senator Bukola Saraki, representing Kwara Central Senatorial District of Kwara State did not sign any committee report as it affects the said investigation contrary to the impression given…”
It would be recalled that on May 29, 2014 Senator Saraki in an earlier statement had said that the Senate Finance Committee had not cleared the NNPC nor the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke as such decision would depend on the outcome of the (then) ongoing forensic audit of NNPC’s account.
Is it not absurd that Saraki should be talking of forensic auditing of the NNPC accounts after a committee he fully participated in its assignment had finished sitting, concluded investigation and had submitted its report? Except Saraki is saying that the Senate Finance Committee which he is a member, contracted their duties to investigate the issue of the missing $49/$20 billion or whatever to a forensic auditor, which forensic auditing was he talking about?
Does it make any sense at all that a Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic would want the Nigerian public to believe that a probe panel set up to unravel the mystery behind the alleged missing $49/20 billion would waste tax payers or more aptly our oil money over an inquest only to turn around and tell us that he would prefer to rely on the finding of a forensic auditor contracted by the alleged culprit in the fraud? Haba, the Nigerian Senate is expected to be wiser and more creative than this?
The problem with most of our so called leaders in this country is that they don’t think deep before saying things and it makes them look naive. Was it not the Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala that arranged for a forensic audit of the accounts of her Ministry and that of the NNPC? If this money was actually missing, who would have taken it? Are they not the same people Saraki is relying on their forensic audit? Is Saraki expecting the federal government- contracted auditor to support him by indicting President Goodluck Jonathan, Diezani, Okonjo Iweala or even the NNPC? Abeg make all of una go sidon for ground!
So when Senator Saraki “participated actively in almost all of the committee’s assignment as it affects the investigation of the unremitted US$48.9 Billion oil revenue by NNPC” what were they screening- rumours and beer parlour gists? Nigeria we hail thee!
The senate finance committee is made up of PDP and APC members. How come that all the other APC members did protest and reject in unison the report? Where were they when the committee chairman presented the report? Was it agreed whether unanimously or by majority that the report should go as packaged? Is Saraki the only dissenting voice in the committee and if not, why is he the only one issuing press statements everyday on this particular investigation?
This was the Senate President’s remark as the report was submitted: “Facts are different from rumours and what we have before us are the facts based on the interview conducted by the committee on public hearing and on all the documents that they could put together.” Is Saraki saying that the facts and figures presented in the report were not based on documents presented to them and interviews conducted by the committee? If Saraki wants us to take him seriously, he should tell us how his committee sourced the data used to establish or discredit the allegation and why he didn’t raise alarm when they were doing it.
What prevented Senator Saraki and other members of the committee supporting him (if any) from coming out with a report of their own findings and also placing it in the public domain so that Nigerians can look at the two reports and know who to believe? Now they have muddled up the entire case because even if they produce their report now, nobody is going to believe it as it would be taken as an after-thought or rather sterile politicking.
Is it not clear to Saraki that he and the entire senate are as guilty or even more than the NNPC that applied resources without the due process of appropriation? If the committees (of course including Saraki’s committee) expected to carry out oversight functions on the NNPC were doing their job very well, we should not have been in this mess of reconciling the accounts of the agencies involved in receiving and managing the nation’s funds?
Truth be told, unnecessary politicisation of very serious issues especially those that bother on stealing or rather misapplication of public funds only denies us the sincerity to trace and recover some of these monies and this has to stop.
Ifeanyi Izeze, Abuja: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)