The Senate is constitutionally mandated to perform oversight functions on the other arms of the government, especially the executive arm. The intendment of that law is to ensure good governance even as it was meant to ensure that the principle of separation of powers is strictly adhered to. That function is needed more when it affects organisations whose functions play key roles in the economic wellbeing of the country. If there is a compelling demand for that searchlight by the Senate on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), we will consider it a service to the country to support such a move.
However, in carrying out this function, it is expected that the legislative body will play down on politics bearing in mind, at all times, the best interest of the nation. Nigerians, who have a lot not too pleasant memories of that oil conglomerate, in particular, the mismanagement of the recent past during which mind-boggling sums were traced to individual pockets, will be too happy to be part of any exercise that will put an end to the rot. All they ask for is that in embarking on such an exercise, the august body, the Senate must purge itself of any inkling towards witch hunt, draw a line between what is good for the country and political filibusting. Nigerians will demand that the Senate should see it as, indeed, a patriotic call to duty that must not be trifled with regardless of the political game that is ongoing.
It is from this perspective that we access the Senate’s summons on the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru, to appear before it over an alleged $3.5 billion spent on subsidising petroleum products. We see it as a game plan by the leadership of the Senate which is now controlled by the opposition to embarrass the person of the GMD and, by extension, President Muhammadu Buhari who is also the Minister of Petroleum Resources, especially at this time. The intention, in our opinion, may not be far-fetched as it is hoped that in the process, the highly volatile sector will experience a hiccup that will throw the administration in bad light before the nation and even the international community as the general election approaches with the ultimate objective of heaping a moral burden on the nation’s leadership.
Already, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has set up a committee to probe the allegation which, to all intents, is based on what industry watchers claim is hearsay. We are by no means holding brief for the NNPC as it is obvious that it has the wherewithal to argue its own case. Our concern is the likely implication of this exercise at this time. The NNPC, as an organisation and, in particular, the GMD, Dr Baru know better than to carry out that quantum of expenditure without appropriation.
The allegation, industry analysts aver is tainted with politics having regard to the administration’s claim of zero tolerance for corruption. We will not dwell on this just as we insist that the country is involved in a lot of controversies that adding anything that is not rooted in fact about the NNPC will be difficult to manage. On its part, NNPC has denied the allegation, stressing that the development was deliberately orchestrated by the Senate to sustain its false narrative and allegation in the public domain.
We are interpreting this Senate/NNPC saga from the point of view of the common man who usually bears the brunt of any crisis in the petroleum products supply chain. They will be hard hit in the event that this leads to a hitch in supplies, as the Christmas festivities are less than two months away. There is the palpable apprehension that this exchange between these two institutions over alleged subsidy fund is capable of upsetting the sector as marketers might become afraid of their payments and decide to be cautious about imports, which might precipitate a rash of fuel scarcity between the end of the year and early 2019 towards the general election. The fear is further heightened by the realisation that politicians, who are known to be capable of anything as they seek to undo one another in the frenzied search for political position, can resort to their bestial elements, not minding the impact on the people for whom they claim to seek the power to serve. Nigerians will be scared stiff at the prospects of a short supply of petroleum products on Christmas Eve. It is from this standpoint that we call for restraint on this matter even as the NNPC has assured that supplies of products will remain uninterrupted.
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