Some NASS Probes Still Awaiting Further Action
THE National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), the capacity building, training and research arm of the National Assembly has put together a total of 82 probes and investigations carried out by the National Assembly from 1999 till date. Here are some of them, the furore they generated and the recommendations reached, most of which are left to rot in the legislative shelves.
• The PTDF (Petroleum Special Trust Fund) probe was investigated by a Senate ad hoc committee in 2007. Headed by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, the ad hoc committee noted in its report that though President Obasanjo had acted outside the law, he should be advised to follow due process in future and that since Vice President Atiku diverted and mismanaged public funds, he should be sanctioned. Some other persons mentioned in the probe including Adamu Maina Waziri, Ahmed Vanderpuye, Hussein Jallo, Hamisu Abubakar and Otunba Johnson Fasawe, the report said, should refund money to the Federal Government and face prosecution.
• Nigerians have not forgotten the probe on impending food crisis in the Senate. The Senate ad-hoc committee headed by Audu Idris was charged with the duty of finding a workable solution to the impending global food shortage especially in the light of shortfall in the quantity of rice being imported to the country. A critical aspect of the committee’s assignment was to investigate how N300 billion was spent by the Obasanjo administration on just fertilizer procurement and distribution. But the committee lacked clear-cut terms of reference, which left it the lassitude to keep altering the scope of its assignment. However the committee discovered that the major challenges threatening food security in the country was lack of proper storage facilities. Consequently the senate committee looked into the award of contracts for construction of silos across the country. In the course of the investigation, it was discovered that some of those awarded contracts did not even know where their project sites were, even as they were paid huge amounts of money. The senate did not care to receive and study the report.
• Then there was the investigation of the privatization and commercialization activities of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) from 1999 to 2011. As the committee went into the investigation, some shady deals perpetrated in the guise of privatization were discovered. One question that left the senators gasping for breath is why most of the privatized firms went into comatose after the privatization.
• Oil Subsidy probe, Malabu Oil Field transaction probe, which could not as yet yield any report; the joint investigation by the two chambers into the circumstances surrounding the crash of Dana Airline in June 3, 2012; the 2013 N500 billion Sure-P fund. As at the time silence became the lot of the probe, the senate committee reported that the NNPC has not provided any official answer regarding the missing N500 billion, which was expected to accrue from the Sure-P programme.
• The Pension Fund Administration probe was handled by the senate joint committee on Public Service, Establishment and State and Local government Administration. Mismanagement of N195 billion pension funds by PRTF was unearthed.
• The senate also probed the missing $49.8 from NNPC. Before then it had looked into allegations of bribery and corruption in the employment processes in the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) as well as ministries and agencies. In 2013 the Senate investigated the APO Killings through its Joint Committee on National Security and Intelligence and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters. Nine people were killed during a raid by a combined team of State Security Service operatives in an uncompleted building owned by a prominent citizen. Boko Haram has continues to hit soft targets in the precincts of the FCT showing that no useful lessons were learned from the probes.
Other astounding probes embarked upon by the House of Representatives, some of which reports are yet to be handed in are as follows:
• House of Representative (2000)
An investigation of Federal Government of Nigeria’s crude oil exports and refined products imports amongst other oil and gas sectors and industries issues for the period may 1999-2000. Chaired by Hon. Ibrahim Ganyama Abubakar, the 14 member Ad-hoc committee was given eighteen (18) items of reference covering all facets of the operations and management of the NNPC and the Nigerian oil industry. Report: At the completion of its assignment the committee found that crude oil export refining and petroleum products sales and distribution had issues. It noted that the NNPC has not been working cordially with the DPR (Department of Petroleum Resources) that is authorized by law to monitor the activities in the petroleum sector, which resulted in shoddy or total absence of data from DPR in many areas of export. “NNPC lost a lot of revenue as a result of not following the statutory empowerment of lifting 300, 000 barrels per day. This resulted in a total loss of over $80m for the period January 2000 – August 2000. This is likely to double for the period May 1999 – December 1999. Record keeping in NNPC is shoddy and data from NNPC to the Office of the Accountant General (AGF) do not agree with final ones from NNPC itself; this suggests fraud. The conditionalities specified for a lifter of crude oil to engage in local investments were never enforced by NNPC and there is no evidence that tendering processes are carried out before lifters are selected,” the committee found.
On Petroleum Product Sales and Distribution, the ad-hoc committee identified the following:
-Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries has been neglected completely.
-Products imports rose from May 1999 to over 70 percent by June 2000.
-Illegal sale of petroleum products became a booming business as petroleum equalization claims while NNPC continues with endless bridging and DPR went to sleep in the exercise of monitoring.
-No tendering existed in the selection of importers thus losing price advantage to the detriment of users.
-Influential and well-connected few have cornered the business of importation, making huge profits.
-The accounting and reporting system of NNPC is faulty as seen in variance with the Office of the AGF.
-Refineries are used as mere charity organs, which refine fuel and are paid simple refining fees, most of which never reached them nor is adequate for their upkeep.
-NNPC jetty and storage facilities are not designed for the crescendo of importation currently going on in the country.
-Pipeline breakage due to old age and vandalism require critical attention and also there is even greater need to bring in other means of land transportation like rail system in product distribution.
-NNPC is too unwieldy to manage efficiently; it should be broken up into two corporations for efficient operation. One should handle upstream issues while the other handles downstream petroleum issues.
• In 2008, the House of Representatives investigated the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Gaius Obaseki, was investigated over mismanagement of funds of the corporation. He was indicted for wasting over N2 billion in less than four years on hotel accommodations.
• That same year, the Green Chamber also investigated the activities and operations of NNPC and its subsidiaries from 1999 to 2007, on the grounds of the right of Nigerians to Know. The Ad-hoc committee made up of 26 members had Hon. Igo Aguma, as chairman. The committee was charged to conduct a public hearing on the operations and activities of NNPC and its subsidiaries from 1999 to 2007, with a view to uncovering the causes of the apparent rot, sharp practices and looting that have permeated all facts of the operations of the sector, as well as to unmask the perpetrators of those economic crimes against the nation. It was further mandated to determine the actual allocation of domestic crude oil to NNPC as well as the quantity of refined petroleum products derived from there for domestic consumption, and revenue, if any, from May 1999 to May 2007.
At the end of the public hearing, the ad-hoc committee uncovered the following instances of corruption through:
-Incessant hike in the price of petroleum products.
-Deliberate and unaccounted increase in the daily quota of petroleum production against OPEC allocation.
-Misappropriated fund budgeted for the Turn-Around Maintenance.
-Fraudulent allocation of oil blocks.
-Lack of transparency and imprudence in NNPC bills.
-Crude oil theft known as ‘smuggling’ across Nigeria porous borders.
-Deliberate delay in discharging of petroleum products by ships at the seaports.
-The dubious operations of International Oil Companies (IOCs). High point of the alarming discoveries was that one of three unregistered companies (Carlson Oil Company Inc) netted about $3.87 billion as profit from lifting 40 percent of Nigerian crude in ten years. The House of Representatives and NNPC confirmed that none of the three companies paid a kobo in tax to the Nigerian government since 1999. Furthermore, the Green Chamber accused NNPC of manipulating the prices of part of the 45,000 barrels of crude oil per day allocated to it for the three refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna. It was discovered that the NNPC sold part of the unrefined crude to some foreign companies yet to be identified at a discount, thus making the country to lose not less than N280 billion ($ 1.87 billion) between 2004 and 2007.
• In 2008 an ad-hoc committee was set up by the House of Representatives to investigate threats to national security and economic interests of Nigeria at Niger Dock premises. Based on its findings, the committee recommended the continued enforcement of the presidential orders on the stoppage of midstream discharge of cargo and closure of private jetties nationwide by all stakeholders of the port operation for the economic and security interests of the country. Other recommendations include:
-That the Federal Ministry of Commerce should be directed to withdraw the NEPZA License granted to SIMCO Free Zone Company (formerly Niger Dock Free Zone Enterprises) since they are not registered to operate in Nigeria and in furtherance of the national economic and security interests of the nation.
-That the Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority decree No. 63. 1992 should immediately be amended to conform to the economic and security interests of the nation.
-That the first and second Share Purchase Agreement transferring 51 percent and 29 percent shares of Federal Government of Nigeria in Niger Dock Plc to GEC and GEC Shipyards and Marine Contractor (Africa) should be reviewed to conform to the first schedule of the Public Enterprise Privatization and Commercialization Act, 1999.
-That the House to directed the committee on privatization and commercialization to further investigate whether or not the alleged payments made amounting to N1.7billion by Nigerdock plc, (Core Investors) was actually paid by Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Privatization Proceeds Accounts.
• The House of Representatives had in 2008 mandated its committee on Petroleum Resources to look into the fire outbreak caused by ruptured pipelines belonging to Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company in Ubeji, Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State. The committee made some recommendations that were adopted after considerations on July 1, 2008. The House held that owing to the volatility of Petroleum products, operators in the downstream sector should take extreme precaution in the use of facilities and that Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) should be compelled to make adequate compensations to the affected communities. The House urged the NNPC to regard the protection of lives and property as very sacrosanct and paramount in their communities of operations.
• Then in 2009, the Green Chamber began a probe into about $16 billion USD allegedly spent on the power sector. Legislative searchlight was beamed on the National Independent Power Projects (NIPP). The committee found that several contracts were awarded to people who did not even know what to do in the first place even as millions of dollars were paid up front to the fronts. Headed by Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, the House Panel on Power and Steel roused Nigerians to the rot in the NIPP, which was made into a conduit. Controversies surrounded the work of the committee based on the caliber of exposes it made ad the caliber of persons that benefitted from the slush NIPP contracts.
As a result, the committee’s report became a subject of intense vituperations, which necessitated the setting up of another panel to probe the report. While probing the probe report, matters took a new twist when chairman of the panel, Elumelu, was accused of fraud at the Rural Electrification Agency.
He was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). As the matter went to sleep in EFCC, those fingered and indicted in the initial report were exonerated by the second panel.
If there is any probe that deserves a revisit, the power probe is it. Nigerians would be interested to know how far the Buhari administration and present House of Representatives could make out of the powerful power probe especially as it concerns the operation of NIPP and Nigeria’s marriage to darkness at the altar of endemic epileptic electric power supply.
• The state of Nigeria’s rail transport captured the attention of the House of Representatives Committee on Land Transport in 2009. That same year, the committee’s recommendations after its findings were adopted at plenary. The House concurred with the committee that the railway modernization project be continued and that the re-scoping as recommended by the then Hon. Minister of Transport, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio be accelerated. “That China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) and Techniques Engineering Architecture Marketing Nigeria Limited (TEAM) be allowed to continue the modernization construction work since they already have equipment and men on site based on the re-scoping. That the Federal Government develops a blue print for railway system in the country.”
• House of Representative also investigated the need to comply with section 3(3) of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (Amendment) Act, 2007 by the Ministry of Interior. The Joint Committee on Interior and Legislative Compliance found that Section 3 (3) of the Act, as amended, was not being implemented by the supervising ministry adding that lives of officers and men of the Corps were put in terrible danger as a result of non- implementation of the provision of the Act as amended.
It was therefore recommended that the executive should make provision in the year 2010 budget for procurement of arms and ammunition; that the minister should take necessary actions in ensuring prompt compliance with section 3 (3) of NSCDC (Amendment) Act, 2007 and that the minister should forward progress report to the Committee within a short period.
• In 2009, the House of Representative probed the clandestine phasing-out or outright sale of Federal Government Colleges (Unity Schools). The Education Committee noted in its findings the lack of transparency and failure to comply with due process and rule of law in the process. It therefore directed the federal ministry of education to release the 2009 Common Entrance Examination and Interview result to enable admission of successful students even as it encouraged the sustenance of Unity schools.
• Probe of Closure of Doku Gas Plant: The House Committee on Gas Resources in 2009 investigated the loss of about 80 Liquefied Natural gas (LNG) cargoes, each worth about ($1.2 billion) due to the closure. The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) had shut down the Soku gas plant in Rivers State, in order to carry out urgently needed repairs resulting from damages caused by a significant increase in condensate theft from the plant’s pipelines. Ministry of Energy (Gas), NNPC and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) were urged to expedite action for the urgent and prompt restoration of operations of the Soku Gas Plant.
• The construction of the second Abuja Runaway at N63, 000, 000, 000.00 (Sixty- Three Billion Naira) was investigated by the House Committee on Aviation. The committee noted that the sum of Sixty-Three Billion Naira being expended in the construction of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport second runway, querying why quotations from other Companies on the project fall within the range of N24, 000, 000, 000.00 to N26, 000, 000, 000.00 only. It also expressed concerns that while Julius Berger Plc is known for the construction of buildings and roads, it has no reputation of building runways and therefore was disturbed that a comparative analysis of some Airports constructed in 2008, 2009 and 2010 cost less than N50, 000, 000, 000.00. The House Committee headed by Dino Melaye, was therefore charged with the task of investigating the matter and report to the House within three weeks. On March 3, 2010 the House passed a resolution calling for the suspension of the project based on the panel’s report that the cost of the contract was bloated and insulated from due process. Consequently, the federal government had terminated the contract awarded to Julius Berger Nigeria Plc in February 2010.
• Senate Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources (downstream), Appropriation and Finance acted on a motion by Senator Bukola Saraki and charged the committee to probe oil subsidy expenditure. It said information available to the Senate showed that N240 billion was earmarked as subsidy for petroleum products in the 2011 Appropriation Act adding that already a total of N931 billion had so far been expended as at August 2011.
After the probe, the joint committee chaired by Senator Magnus Abe turned over its report. But curiously the report is yet to see the light of the day. However, the Committee found that the NNPC paid itself N847.94 billion despite having been paid N844.94 billion by the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency in 2011, suggesting that the company had been making double withdrawals for years from the treasury. The panel concluded that NNPC “was not accountable to anybody”. The Joint Committee did not stop at that, it went ahead to disclose the names of beneficiaries of the fuel subsidy scheme operated by government agencies. In the list were both major oil marketers and independent depot owners, with 77 beneficiaries.
• In 2012 the Senate and House of Representatives investigated the circumstances surrounding the crash of Dana Airliner on June 3, 2012. The crash claimed lives of more than 153 persons. It was an emotional tragedy. And to underscore the importance of the investigation, the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation teamed up with its Senate counterpart. At the conclusion of the probe, the joint committee recommended that the operations of Dana Airline should be banned and that the then Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr. Harold Demuren, should be relieved of his appointment. Though the NCAA DG was removed other recommendations remain unimplemented.
• House of Representatives ad-hoc handled the probe of Petroleum Product Fuel Subsidy Administration. Headed by Hon. Farouk Lawan, the committee investigated the management of the fuel subsidy from 2009 to 2011. Part of its terms of reference was to unravel the discrepancies between what the Federal Government paid to fuel importers and the actual amount of fuel imported since 2009. Public hearings were held from January 16, to February 9, 2012.
Sworn testimonies were also received from 130 witnesses as well as information from several volunteers just more than 3,000 volumes of documents were taken as evidence. Report: The committee stated that the subsidy administration was heavily compromised and exposed massive fraud in the oil sector. It revealed that $6.8 billion was uncounted for even as it named some of the individuals and companies involved in the furl subsidy fraud. It then recommended that some government agencies including the NNPC; Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and 72 firms should refund the N1.7bn within three months just as the EFCC was asked to investigate and prosecute the culprits. But in an apparent demur for partisan solidarity, the ad hoc committee recommended just a reprimand for the former PDP national chairman, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, who was the chairman of PPPRA from 2009 to 2011 and other members of the board during the period, for allegedly opening “the floodgate of the (subsidy) bazaar”. At plenary, the whole House while debating the report changed the reprimand clause and instead demanded that Ahmadu Ali and others should be prosecuted. The House asked the anti-corruption agencies to investigate and prosecute the former Minister of Finance, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, who was on seat at that time (2010-June 2011). It also recommended the prosecution of the Accounting firm of Akintola Adekanola and partners and the discontinued retainership of their services with immediate effect for professional negligence.
• There are other important probes. The N6.1b SIM card registration by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and the Capital Market/Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) were investigated. The near-collapse of the capital market caused the probe. In the course of the course of the investigation that the Director-General of SEC, Mrs. Arunma Oteh, alleged that the commission Chairman, Hon. Herman Hembe, demanded N44m bribe from her. She also accused Hembe of witch –hunting her after collecting money including a first class flight ticket for a conference, which he neither attended nor returned the money. Based on these allegations, the House leadership was compelled to disqualify the standing committee from further action as it instead constituted an ad hoc committee headed by Hon. Ibrahim El-Sudi, which completed the assignment.
• The public investigation hearing to “Unravel the Status of all Assets Seized and Recovered by the Economic and Financial Crime Committee (EFCC) since its inception. The probe was sequel to complaints from the public on seized assets by EFCC. It was found that from 2003 to date, the EFCC has confiscated over 200 mansions and large sums of money through 46 forfeitures court orders. “These landed property, monies and business concerns, which were estimated to be in excess of N2 trillion, included bank accounts, shares in blue-chip companies, exotic vehicles, fuel stations, holdings, warehouses and shopping malls among others,” the then Speaker outlined. It was found that there was lack of prudent and careful management of these assets leading to waste. Cases of vandalism, abandonment and stoppage of running companies prior to forfeiture, were discovered.
There was also lack of clarity on their use while litigation is on coupled to the reported breach of the seal EFCC and attempts at unlawful and forced repossession by the owners of the confiscated items.
• The House of Representatives has been probing the award of $40m internet spying contract to a foreign company by the Federal Government since 2013. Under the then House Committee on Information and Computer technology, Human Rights and National Security, the Green Chamber was told that the project was to monitor computers and Internet activities of over 45 million Nigerians on the web. A flawed process of awarding the contract, which failed due process and was in breach of Fiscal Responsibility Act and Bureau of Public Procurement Act 2007 was alleged. It was noted that the project violated basic privacy provisions of Chapter 4 Section 37 of the 1999 constitution, as amended. The House passed a resolution to suspend the contract without debate.
The probe begun in 2013 by the House of Representatives into the management of N2756billion Destination Inspection Scheme (DIS), between the Nigerian Customers Services (NCS) and the Ministry of Finance is yet to be concluded. The contracts were for the provision of facilities for the prosecution of Destination Inspection Scheme (DIS), including scanning services, risk-management techniques and electronic platform at the borders as well as the training of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) personnel. The DIS contracts were awarded to four foreign firms – Cotecna Destination Inspection Ltd; SGS Scanning Nigeria Ltd; Global Scan Systems ltd and Webb Fountain (Nigeria) Ltd to provide scanning services, risk management techniques, electronic platform at various ports in the country.