The Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari again refused to appear before the House of Representatives committee Public Accounts to defend several audit queries bothering on illegal withdrawals and mismanagement of public funds contained in a report of the Auditor General of the Federation running to over N3.5 Trillion
The committee at the ongoing hearing of the Audit queries raised against the Corporation by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation , the Chairman of the Committee, Wole Oke informed members that the GMD who was expected to defend series of audit queries against the corporation had again excused himself through writing from appearance
He lamented that this would be the 10th time the GMD was failing to appear before the constitutional committee without valid excuse
Members of the committee expressed dismay over the attitude of the NNPC boss to the Parliarment over time.
The committee called for an immediate resolution for the issuance of a bench warrant of arrest against the GMD for total disrespect to the constituted authority.
While expressing his anger, Hon. Solomon Maren (PDP, Plateau) said the parliament cannot continue to sit back and watch agencies of government ignore invitations at will, adding that the House must rise up and defend its name.
According to him, “for an agency of government will continuously evade appearance before the Public Accounts Committee is unacceptable. I think it is time this committee exerts its power so that it will no longer be looked upon as a toothless bulldog.
“This is the time we should be able to rise above every sentiment and do the needful by ensuring that NNPC which is the collecting body of government revenue from the oil and gas sector is accountable. If they are not accountable to us, to whom will they be accountable?
“This is the time we must do the needful and arise to say you have deferred on too many occasion. Ten times is too much and this committee must rise up and say this is unacceptable and it will no longer be cordoned. We need to rise and do what is right in the interest of this nation.
“The local government councils are in shamble because we cannot account for how revenue is collected on their behalf. Many states are owing salaries of their staff because we cannot account for the revenue we are collecting on their behalf.
“Even the implementation of the budget has never gone beyond 70 percent and I am sure it is because the funds are not enough to fund the budget. Also, the federal government is borrowing huge sums of money to fund the budget and augment the deficit.
“For God sake, it is the tenth time that they are not appearing. When will they appear? Are we going to continue to cordon this? They will continue to find excuse not to appear until the lifespan of this 9th assembly expires”.
On his part, Hon. Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun) said agencies like the NNPC should not be allowed to undermine the efforts of the parliament to ensure transparency and accountability, especially when President Muhammadu Buhari rode on the mantra of fight against corruption to power.
According to him, “democracy thrives where there is respect for the rule of law and where there is respect for institutions of government. It is not in the mouth of a body set up by law. NNPC is a creation of this parliament and not a creation of itself. It is not in the mouth of that institution to refuse to respect the institution that has been granted the power by the laws of this nation to invite them to account.
“This country is bleeding. Financially, we are bleeding and this is the institution that is saddled with the management of one of our greatest resources. If they will not open themselves to accountability, I wonder what kind of example they are setting for other institutions of government.
“Apart from the fact that this committee is saddled with that power by the constitution, it is also acting in pursuant to a report from the Auditor General of the federation. President Muhammadu Buhari rode into office in one of the mantra which is that of fighting corruption and ensures that this country is runned as an accountable institution.
“So, if the NNPC that has been indicted by a report from the Auditor General’s office refuses to come to parliament render its account and defend that report, it is high time we rise as a parliament to ask that sanctions be applied. I agreed that the letter authored and sent here should be rejected having not signed by the Chief Executive Officer.
“We should also call for appropriate sanction and order that the GMD be brought before this parliament. We have the power as a committee to order that he be brought here before the parliament pursuant to the constitution and the Legislative privileges Act.
“I want to suggest that we wield the big stick so that all institutions of government will know that we mean business here which is to entrench transparency and accountability in the management of the funds of this country.”
Also contributing, Hon. Victor Mela Danzaria (APC, Gombe) expressed disappointment over the attitude of the NNPC, pointing out that members of the parliament will continue to defend the interest of Nigerians.
According to him, “this is disappointing and unfortunate. This is not the first time. Let me say that we will continue to stand for Nigeria and look for how money meant for the development of this country is being used. This is regrettable and is not supposed to be.
“The GMD is the overseer of this company and there are competent he could have sent here to come and speak. Unfortunately, they choose otherwise. Let us do the right thing for this country because this is the engine room of this nation. We can allow it to go unsupervised by the National Assembly”.
However, in his filling, Hon Oke appealed to angry members to give the GMD the last chance to appear before the committee to defend the audit query against the organization failure which, they will be compelled to conclude that the allegations of mismanagement of public funds levelled against them were true.
Oke said if the GMD failed to appear before the House on Thursday, February 18, 2021, the Committee will have no choice than to resolve all issues against the corporation in favour of the Auditor General and make appropriate recommendation to the House for adoption.
According to him, “let us situate the issues properly. The invitation extended to the NNPC stem from the query raised by the Auditor General of the Federation on the Federations Account and the financial statement of the Auditor General lf the Federation on several issues
“We have written to NNPC because they have a right to fair hearing. They have the constitutional right to be given fair hearing and we have written severally and what we keep getting from them is request for extension
“The worst story is that there are 18 subsidiaries under NNPC who also have queries to answer and the GMD ordered them not to appear because they are subsidiaries. I want to state that the GMD is not in a position to dictate to the parliament on how the parliament should conduct its business
“If they failed to appear at the next adjourned date, we will not summon them again, but simply resolve all the issues in favour of the Auditor General and then tender it on the floor of the House for adoption.”, they insusted
The NNPC in a letter addressed to the Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts with ref. GGM/GPAD/08 and signed by the Group General Manager, Public Affairs, Dr. K.A. Obatelu, said the GMD was not able to honour the invitation as a result of a critical and time bound operational matter.
The letter reads in part “we wish to reassure the leadership of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the NNPC holds it in very high regard and esteem. However, we regret the inability of the GMD to attend the meeting scheduled for February 11, 2021 due to a pre-scheduled critical and time bound operational matter
“In view of the current circumstance as stated above, we kindly request that the meeting be rescheduled.”