When the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, initially disclosed that $49.8b was not remitted to the federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), many Nigerians, so used to the corruption of top government officials in times past and present, were aghast and lent their voice to the debate for and against the bogus claim. But, today, courtesy of the Senate of the Federal Republic, we now know that the man who headed our Apex bank was far from the truth.
A fearful Sanusi, whose neck was on the line for the way he managed the resources of the CBN, had cleverly put the president's back to the wall when he wrote to Goodluck Jonathan on the non-remittance to the Federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of $49.8billion, representing 76 per cent of the value of crude oil lifting from January 2012 to July 2013.
The letter, which political strategists expected to undo the ruling government, had been leaked to the press. But after a presidentially ordered reconciliation, the Emir retraced his steps and agreed that the figure was over $12 billion, which revised again downward to $10.8 billion and later (finally) to $20 billion.
In putting a lie to the letter of the Emir of Kano, the Senate Committee on Finance, headed by former Kaduna Governor, Ahmed Makarfi, declared that "there was never any unremitted $49.8 billion... .The committee could not see how the figure of $49.8 billion was arrived at by the CBN governor in the first instance."
One Senator, Ayogu Eze, commended the committee for the professional work it did, applauding it for hiring professional auditors who made it possible to have the job of investigation to be well done. He said it was amazing that the governor of the CBN then, who was supposed to know the facts, was preoccupied with misleading the country by giving conflicting reports.
But the committee stated that all the agencies, which made presentations to it, agreed, after reconciliation, that $47 billion out of the $67 billion had been credited to the Federation Account, leaving only $20 billion yet to be accounted for. Part of the outstanding $20 billion was the $5.254 billion spent on subsidy for Premium Motor Spirit by the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency(PPPRA),which was covered by the Appropriation Acts of 2012 and 2013, the Senate Committee said. It added that the $3.512 billion spent for kerosene subsidy as certified by PPPRA for the period January 2012 to July 2013 was still part of the $20 billion.
But the subtle indictment of relevant National Assembly committees was not lost on its Chairman, Senate President David Mark, who looked for the whip he should have used a long time ago, and lashed his colleagues. He also did not spare the Emir, even though he was political enough not to want to hurt the sensibilities of the Kanawa nation, by not making any direct reference to his office or person, but it was obvious he was referring to him when he hinted at rumour mongers.
His words: "At the inception of the seventh Senate, I did say emphatically that there is no issue in this country that we cannot discuss as respected and distinguished senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If we have the courage to set up a committee, nothing will stop us from taking the report of that committee and nothing will be swept under the carpet in this red chamber.
"I think what is glaring from this report is that we are all guilty. If the committees expected to carry out oversight functions on the NNPC were doing their job very well, we wouldn't have needed the Governor of Central Bank to ring an alarm bell before reacting. Whether the alarm is genuine or not, is another matter. The executive may have good reasons but the legislature obviously does not have reasons not to find out. Let me appeal to the various committees to endeavour to do their work.
"Facts are different from rumours and what we have before us are the facts based on the interview conducted by the committee on public hearing and on all the documents that they could put together. One thing is very obvious, due process has not been followed and they have stated so very clearly.
"On the issue of subsidy, I want to appeal that we should not pit ourselves against the public opinion. If subsidy has to be removed, there must be public enlightenment and education so that facts would be made available to the people and then public opinion at the end of the day will count.
"If we sit here now and say remove subsidy, I think those who are benefitting from subsidy are very powerful and tomorrow they would influence media reports and twist it to create an impression that the Senate is anti-people.
"If the subsidy has to go, I don't have problems with that but let us sensitise the people over a very long period of time so that everybody will be carried along and everybody will be on board and we then can take a final decision on the issue of subsidy because the recommendations are far- reaching."
Mark spoke well. He hit the bull in the eye, but it should be added that when federal lawmakers, who are part of the federal government fail to do their jobs, and rather run around the corridors of Ministries, Department, and Agencies (MDAs) to curry favours, they leave everyone in government, especially themselves, culpable when whistle-blowers, like Sanusi, speak.
- Adejoh wrote in from Abuja.