The failure of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee, which conducted an expansive investigation into the management of fuel subsidy, to submit its report weeks after its chairman, Hon Farouk Lawan, promised it would be released is because the committee and the entire House of Representatives are being held hostage by powerful forces not to release the report because of the damning revelations and recommendations it contains, LEADERSHIP gathered yesterday.
The House of Representatives had, January 8, in a special session arising from the sudden hike of petrol price caused by the withdrawal of subsidy by the federal government, set up an ad-hoc committee with a mandate to investigate the management of funds expended on fuel subsidy as well as why the payment took an astronomical increase within one year.
But one month after the committee completed the public hearing and despite assurances by Lawan that the report would be made public, powerful forces are said to be working seriously to ensure that the report does not get to the public.
Revelations by the committee indicate that most of the companies which were involved in shady deals in the Petroleum Support Fund, PSF, and who were indicted in the report are owned by political leaders who played key roles in the emergence of the present leadership of the country.
The committee had uncovered massive fraud in the PSF, both on the side of government officials who allegedly connived with marketers to siphon money from the scheme and administrators of the fund who spoke in dissenting voices when questions were raised about the procedure for participation in the scheme and several others.
Giving an insight into the content of the report, Hon. Lawan had said that all companies who were found culpable of fraud in the PSF would be recommended for prosecution by the EFCC and the ICPC.
It was gathered that most of the brains behind the companies are top brass in the corridors of power who are now holding the lawmakers hostage to ensure that the report does no see the light of day.
Meanwhile, prominent lawyers Yusuf Ali (SAN), Sebastian Hon (SAN), Fred Agbaje and Wahab Shittu have asked Nigerians to invoke the Freedom of Information Act to compel the Farouk-led petroleum subsidy probe committee to release its report or findings it promised would be ready a couple of weeks back.
The lawyers averred that it is not only the committee that is held hostage by oil subsidy cabals but that federal government has appears to have been overpowered by the oil subsidy cartel.
They insisted that the war against corruption under the government of President Goodluck Jonathan has ground to a halt in the last six months for the singular reason to avoid marching on the toes of these cartel members in the country.
The lawyers who separately spoke to LEADERSHIP cited the quashing of charges preferred by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission against Halliburton, Hon Ndidi Elumelu and Erastus Akingbola on the grounds of non-diligent prosecution.
According to Sebastine Hon, “One of the aspects of the Freedom of Information Act is the right of every Nigerian to know how he is being governed. I will call on the press to invoke the FoI law to compel Farouk Lawan and the National Assembly to tell Nigerians what is holding the report back.”
“Fuel is almost the life wire of every Nigerian because both the poor and rich are affected directly by any forms of practice adversely or otherwise that touches on its circulation or price. This is why the probe panel is keenly watched while every Nigerian is eager to read the panel’s report to determine how the subsidy surged from less than N300 billion to N1.7 trillion.
With the FOI, the NASS can be compelled to free itself from the hostage and release the report.”
For his part, Agbaje stated: “It is not only Farouk Lawan’s committee that is held hostage. The whole federal government is already held hostage by the oil subsidy cabals.
The government of Jonathan has not shown any zeal to prosecute the war against corruption but rather has uncritically embraced corruption with passion. There are several cases of corruption oozing out in leaps and bounds in the last six months that smacks of any interest at all in the fight against corruption.
“The quashing of corruption charges against Halliburton, Hon. Ndidi Elumelu and lastly Erastus Akingbola by courts of law attest to the fact that Jonathan’s government is the first among many that has wholly and openly embraced corruption in Nigeria.”
Shittu said: “It would as well help us as a country to avoid rationalizing by way of speculation. Farouk asked for time to enable him thoroughly carry out the investigation and give an in-depth report on his findings. All we require to do is to be patient and allow him to do his job that would give the nation an insight into what really happened.”
But the chairman of the House Committee on media and public affairs, Zakari Mohammed, has said the report would be presented to the lower House upon resumption from their scheduled Easter break. The lower House spokesman had earlier confirmed that there was intense pressure from some quarters to jettison the report.
Mohammed insisted that the subsidy probe would not go the way of previous probe panels embarked on without the release of its report and that all legislative machinery would be deployed to ensure that those indicted are brought to book.
He said: “I want to also say that the investigation has developed a life of its own. You cannot kill it. It is living and it will continue until we get to that logical conclusion where people have been indicted and they are also brought to book.”