The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said, yesterday, that the Federal Government would recover the excess payments made to petroleum marketers on subsidy, as soon as the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede committee completes its assignment.
She revealed this after the second Prof. Barth Nnaji annual lecture at the Enugu State University of Technology, Enugu.
President Goodluck Jonathan established the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede Committee, on Thursday, to reconcile the findings of the Technical Committee set up by the Federal Ministry of Finance to conduct a detailed review of all subsidy claims and payments made in 2011.
According to the minister, the Presidential Committee, which has been given a tight deadline of one week, would enable marketers, who may doubt the report of the Technical Committee, to come forward and be confronted with the bare facts of the earlier committee’s findings.
Okonjo-Iweala noted that although over 50 per cent of the N888 billion fuel subsidy, budgeted for 2012, has been utilized owing to the heavy 2011 arrears, substantial recovery would be made from the excess payments which would augment the current balance.
Her words, “In terms of the subsidy, it is true that we budgeted N 888 billion for the year. We have used N451 billion of that. We still have N370bn left that we are working on. So it is not like all the money is finished and we will be working on that.
“As you know, there was a recent report to verify 2011 arrears that , with the support of Mr. President, I set up, and chaired by Aig-Imokhuede. We set it up in the Ministry of Finance and they have worked. They used over 20 forensic accountants and bank examiners. As a result, Mr. President two days ago, constituted a Presidential Task Force, also chaired by Mr. Aig-Imokhuede, to try and just complete work on the verification and then begin the recovery.
“The verification is to give a chance to any of those marketers who say, ‘oh, maybe you got it wrong here or there’ to come forward. And the President has given them a very tight deadline of about a week. When we finish with that, then the next stage will be for us to try and get our money back.
“We must get some of those resources back. Let’s wait for the resources to come back. I am sure Nigerians will like that and then we can take it from there.
“President Jonathan has directed the 15-member committee, headed by Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, to begin work immediately and conclude its assignment by 1700 hours on Friday, July 13, 2012 as a prelude to immediate action on all identified cases of fraud”.
Earlier in her lecture, the minister noted that science and technology holds the key to the much-needed rapid development and, therefore, must be accorded a place of priority by government at all levels, on the one hand and the private sector on the other.
She lamented the abysmal attention science and technology currently suffers in both sectors and, therefore, called for a closer collaboration between the two with a view to creating the efforts that would transform research findings in the laboratories of universities and research institutes to increased industry production, in the country.
The minister also called for concerted efforts towards diversifying the nation’s economy which depends on oil as its major foreign exchange earner. Sectors that require immediate attention according to her, include agriculture, solid minerals, and services.