Nigeria: FG Sacks Akintola Williams, Others Over Fuel Subsidy Payments

The report of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Management claimed its first casualties yesterday.

The Federal Government, apparently taking a cue from the panel’s recommendations,sacked two accounting firms responsible for certifying fuel subsidy claims by marketers.

Sacked were Akintola Williams and Co and Adekanola and Co.

It also stopped withdrawal from the Excess Crude Account. Only $3.6billion was left in the Excess Crude Account last night, down from the $20billion in the account in 2006.

Highlight of the panel’s recommendations is that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Petroleum Products Pricing and RegulatoryAgency (PPPRA), oil marketers and others should refund a total of N1.07trillion being the amount they allegedly collected as subsidy.

However, The Nation gathered that government is not disposed to implementing most of the key recommendations of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee at least until the Senate concludes its own probe.

Senior Special Assistant to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, said last night that the sack of the accounting firms followed a review of the management of the subsidy regime in the last two months.

He said: “Concerned about the management of the subsidy regime, the Federal Ministry of Finance has, for the last two months ,been reviewing aspects of the implementation of the subsidy regime related to its functions.

“The review has produced a lot of useful details on what was wrong with the system and what needs to be done to ensure improvement going forward.

“The review process kicked off in February when the ministry and relevant government agencies held a meeting with bankers and marketers at the instance of President Goodluck Jonathan. This was followed by a subsequent session with the accounting and auditing firms to re-evaluate their work.

“Based on the review, the Ministry has taken the following steps: “The services of the audit and accounting firms responsible for certifying the documents and claims of marketers before payment have been terminated. The companies are Akintola Williams and Co and Adekanola and Co.

“The Ministry has established a committee made up of credible and experienced persons from the private and public sectors with strong technical component under the chairmanship of Mr. Aigboje Imoukuede to examine the claims of payment arrears for 2011 currently being made by marketers. This is to ensure that only genuine claims are honoured.

“The ministry is also finalising a new and more effective system to replace the current arrangement and, in this regard, a second committee has been set up to propose a good way to forward.

“Based on other outcomes of the review, the ministry will take further actions as necessary.

“In a related development, the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) has put on hold further depletion of the Excess Crude Account (ECA).”

A government source contacted yesterday on the House of Reps Ad Hoc Committee report said the presidency may not take action on the report until the Senate has concluded its own probe into the subsidy regime. “Acting on the report now will pre-empt the Senate probe,” the source said.

“It is much tidier for the government to consider the report of the Senate too before embarking on any steps to sanitize the system.

“As far as we are concerned, the subsidy report from the House is incomplete.

“The government is actually following developments in the National Assembly as regards the subsidy probe closely. We are concerned about the need to cleanse the oil sector but the government needs to get a clear and complete message from the lawmakers so that we don’t act in isolation.”

Asked what government would do to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke whose ministry supervised PPPRA, DPR and NNPC where the fuel subsidy scandals were perpetrated, the source said: “let us wait for the Senate report. The House report did not indict her.”

“A number of persons are of the view that the probe report cannot be said to have indicted the Petroleum Minister because she is not seen to have directly violated the laws.

“She herself suspected some wrong doings in the sector and instituted probes. The probe committees are still sitting, so the report of the House Committee might just have pre-empted those committees she inaugurated.

“I can tell you that any action that will be taken will follow due process. The government is not known to act without following due process. Those calling for the head of the Minister and other heads of parastatals were attempting to sideline due process.”

The Nation

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