… Query Jonathan’s forensic audit on subsidy arrears
From IHEANACHO NWOSU, Abuja
The House of Representatives yesterday set the stage for the passage of N161, 617, 364, 911 billion supplementary budget requested by President Goodluck Jonathan. The lawmakers, however, faulted the forensic audit conducted by the presidency in arriving at the request of N161, 617, 364, 911 billion. N888.1 billion was approved for payment of fuel subsidy in 2012 budget. Although, the second reading of the supplementary budget was passed overwhelmingly, the lawmakers accused President Jonathan of attempting to blackmail them into approving his request. The proposed supplementary budget, when passed would bring the total fuel subsidy budget for 2012 to N1, 041, 881, 608, 594 trillion.
Deliberating on the matter, Chairmen of House Committees on Petroleum Resources (upstream), Dakuku Peterside (River PDP); Petroleum Resources (downstream), Ajibola Muraina (Oyo PDP) and Appropriation, John Enoh (Cross River PDP), urged their colleagues to approve the president’s request. Peterside and the House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila challenged the Presidency to present the forensic audit to the House for scrutiny. Gbajabiamila said the underestimation of the 2012 fuel subsidy budget was an indictment on the budget office.
The duo demanded from the Federal Government the actual consumption figures of subsidized petroleum products. Petersude said: “The government needs to block leakages in the system (subsidy fraud). We agree that subsidy is not in our best interest but on the interim we have to live with it and make sure it works.” House Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who urged the lawmakers to consider the request, called for better budget tracking by House standing committees.
The speaker said the interest of the nation must be uppermost in the mind of the citizens. He said: “Throughout this debate, issues around forensic report, actual subsidy figure, actual requirements have been raised, we can only know this if we allow this Bill to get to the committee for them to work on it and come back with all these details that we require either for us to pass it or to justify why their request should not be passed.
“Because as at now, we are not sure whether they truly needed this funds. So in the committees’ work, the committee should be able to come up with justification for approving it or not. “The gamut of the entire debates serve as a wake up call to our committees. We need to do more of budget tracking and ensure that we are not taken for a ride by the executive.
“So, I believe that fundamental issues have been raised, we need to be more discerning in whatever position we take, we have the expectations of the public and in any case all of us are aware that those in the executive never wanted this fuel subsidy, that is however not to say we should allow Nigerians or our country to be drained by those who believed that they can use the opportunity of fuel subsidy to cart away our money.”
“Jonathan’s N161, 617, 364, 911 billion request which came in form of a Bill was passed for second reading and subsequently referred to joint committees on Petroleum Resources (upstream and downstream); Finance and Appropriation for further legislative inputs. Jonathan in his request said the extra fuel subsidy cash was needed to settle accumulated fuel subsidy arrears owed oil marketers. He said it would assist to maintain a steady flow of petroleum products, especially to the run-up to the festive season.