The House of Representatives yesterday ordered the immediate probe of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) for allegedly refusing to remit N1.343 trillion to the Consolidated Revenue Account domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Consequently, the House mandated its Committees on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) to probe into the issue and report back in 10 weeks for further legislative action.
The decision followed the adoption of a motion jointly sponsored by Messrs Julius Ihonvbere and Ossai Nicholas Ossai at the plenary presided over by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila. Ihonvbere (Edo: APC) while moving the motion argued that the refusal to remit the fund accumulated over the years by the PPPRA clearly contravened Section 162(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The lawmaker claimed that the unremitted fund was collected as part of the agency’s total internally generated revenue, the non-remittance, therefore, constitutes a breach of the public accounting principle and the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of the Federal Government. Accusing the PPPRA of undermining the Federal Government’s drive to fight corruption and ensure that there are no leakages in government, Ihonvbere said that the alleged infraction was worthy of investigation by the House, especially in the face of the paucity of funds and the economic crunch the government was passing through.
According to him, the lack of transparency in public sector accounting occasioned by fiscal indiscipline by ministries, departments and agencies of government has continued to sink holes in government purse and consequently encourage corruption, abuse of power, inefficiency and impunity. He warned that the action by the PPPRA, if unchecked, could worsen the nation’s socio-economic challenges.
The lawmaker made reference to the then Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, in 2018, during a town hall meeting with chief executive officers of government-owned enterprises in Abuja, who described the PPPRA as the worst culprit for refusing to remit operating surplus of over N1.34 trillion.
Ihonvbere further argued: “I am aware that Section 22, Sub-section 1 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007 (FRA 2007) states that ‘Notwithstanding the provisions of any written law governing the Corporation, each Corporation shall establish a general reserve fund and shall allocate thereto at the end of each financial year, one fifth of its operating surplus for the year” and such payments are to be made every year after preparation of audited accounts.
Also yesterday, the House urged the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to ban the operation of illegal cooking gas outlets in the country. This followed a unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Kolawole Musibau during the plenary. Moving the motion entitled “Banning of illegal cooking gas outlets and operators in the country”, Musibau said the ban would ensure that DPR enforces its rules and guidelines to ensure compliance, and discipline errant operators.
According to a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report, the lawmaker emphasised that there were “rules to be followed, operational guidelines to be complied with and licences to be obtained” to become an operator. He said there were also safety measures to be met before licences are issued, expressing concern that most operators did not meet the requirements. The House also urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to assist victims of gas explosions and fire incidents, and directed the committee on gas resources to ensure compliance.