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Senate Summons NNPC Over Refineries

Senate Invites Nigeria’s Oil Powerhouse, NNPC, Over Questions On Refineries As House Seeks Answers On Crude Swap

Teddy Nwanunobi & Dyepkazah Shibayan, Abuja

The Senate yesterday resolved to summon the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to appear before its relevant committees as soon as they are constituted to explain state of the nation’s refineries, as well as plans to encourage private ones.

The legislators also urged the Federal Roads Safety Commission (FRSC) to regularly engage the tanker drivers in training. As Senate decided on these, the House of Representatives said it would investigate alleged malpractices by NNPC on its crude swap policy so as to ensure that the nation’s extractive industries are transparently managed in accordance with global best practices.

These were parts of amended prayers to the Senator Gbenga Ashafa-sponsored motion entitled: Fuel Tanker Tragedies on Nigeria’s highways. Earlier, Ashafa, who noted with serious concern the spate of fuel tanker explosions on the nation’s highways, said the ugly situation raises question about what has become of the rail line project of the immediate past administration, as alternative to highways.

“Within the space of one week, four fuel tanker accidents occurred in Nigeria’s two major cities, claiming lives and destroying properties; the first incident was at Onitsha (the commercial nerve centre of Anambra State), which claimed over 70 lives at Upper Iweka. While the inferno raged, men of the Federal Fire Service (FSS), in their typical nature, arrived late at the scene to extinguish the fire.

“As condolence messages were still being expressed to the victims and their families, another accident occurred in Lagos. Here, another tanker conveying 33,000 litres of petrol exploded at Iyana-Ipaja and injured no fewer than 14 persons, gutting about 21 vehicles and razing down 44 shops. “As Nigerians were still lamenting the tragedy at Iyana-Ipaja, another occurred at Idimu in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos.

The incident destroyed property worth millions of Naira, (while) no fewer than 34 buildings, 70 shops, one tricycle, one truck and other property were consumed by the fire ignited by the fallen petrol-laden tanker. “All the fuel tankers lifting fuel from the tank farms along Apapa- Oshodi Expressway have done tremendous damage to the highways, causing deaths, pains and gridlocks on the highways.

Time has come for government to seek permanent solution instead of temporal palliatives, as fuel tankers from all states in the North, South-East and South-West states (go) to Lagos to lift fuel and besiege the highways causing the type of tragedies we have recorded recently in Onitsha and Lagos,” Ashafa said.

He observed that all the tankers in the country would not have any business going to Lagos to lift fuel, if the refineries were still functional. Meanwhile, raising a motion on the floor of the House yesterday entitled “Urgent Need For a Forensic Investigation of the Contract known as Refined Product Exchange Agreement or Swap Contract”, Hon. Michael Enyong noted that the country’s revenues had plummeted due to leakages in the accounting system and mismanagement of the economy.

He explained that the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) in its 2011 and 2012 reports had ascertained that there was revenue loss to the tune of $8 billion owing to discrepancies between the value of the crude oil given out and the refined products delivered.

“There is the need to ensure Transparency and accountability by the NNPC in the management of revenue accruing to the nation from crude oil, particularly in the prevailing circumstances where major buyer of Nigeria’s crude oil, the US has discovered alternative sources”, the lawmaker said.

According to him, the investigation is important because due diligence in the management of the country’s revenue will rekindle hope in Nigeria’s creditors about its fiscal capacity to manage its debts and still have resources with which to address it’s macro-economic concerns.

Immediate past Deputy leader of the House, Leo Ogor standing on rule 50 said that he would want the motion suspended because it is a new motion which was not placed in the notice paper.

On the contrary, Femi Gbajabiamila insisted that because of the importance of the motion, the relevant standing rules of the House can be suspended to take the motion.

The Speaker, Yakubu Dogara in his ruling and after putting the motion to a voice vote said, “we should bear in mind that it was only yesterday (Tuesday) that the committee of rules and business was instituted”, adding that the committee should make sure that the rules of the House was observed.

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