Facts emerged on Tuesday that the report of the committee set up by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to verify the arrears of subsidy claims had been sent to President Goodluck Jonathan.
The committee, headed by the Managing Director, Access Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, was set up following controversies generated by revelations on the amount being paid to fuel marketers as subsidy.
A top official in the Finance ministry, who confirmed the submission of the report to the Presidency to our correspondent, said if acted upon, the recommendations in the report would help plug the leakages associated with the fuel subsidy regime. The source, who pleaded not to be named as he was not permitted to speak officially on the matter, said only the Presidency could give further directives as to how the report would be implemented. He said the sensitive nature of the fuel subsidy regime had made it imperative for the report to be sent to the President.
The source said, “The report on verification of arrears of subsidy claims has already been submitted by the committee to the Minister of Finance, and as I am talking to you now, that report has been sent to the President for further directive on the next line of action.”
The Federal Government, had in a bid to ensure a prudent management of the fuel subsidy budget, stopped further payment to the oil marketers two months ago. For instance, while N232bn was budgeted for subsidy arrears in the 2012 budget, a whopping N451bn had so far been paid as arrears to oil marketers for 2011 alone.
As at last week, additional N50bn had been released, thus bringing the subsidy payment to N510bn.This implies that of the N888bn subsidy bill, only N387bn is left for spending in 2012. The source said the huge subsidy claim was clearly not sustainable, adding that the ministry had a responsibility to ensure that the lapses that might have led to the situation were not repeated.
“In line with the directive of the President, the ministry will continue to work towards the improvement of the fuel subsidy regime based on the lessons learnt from our recent experiences, and we are determined to put in place a strong framework for the fuel subsidy regime that is both transparent and sustainable,” he added.
Okonjo-Iweala had last week given an indication that all oil marketers who fraudulently benefitted from the fuel subsidy payment would refund the amounts they dubiously collected.
Meanwhile, the Senate Joint Committee on the Fuel Subsidy Investigation has scheduled a hearing for Monday and Tuesday next week where it intends to finalise its inquest into the administration of petroleum products’ subsidies in the last five years.
A statement from the committee on Tuesday said the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Nkonjo-Iweala, and Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Austine Oniwon, had been invited to appear during the hearing.
Others invited to appear before the committee are the Executive Secretary, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, Mr. Reginald Stanley; Managing Director, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, Mr. Morrison Fiddi.