The Senate has commenced investigation into the $3.5billion spent under the ‘Subsidy Recovery Fund’ of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

A point of order raised by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, during the plenary session on Tuesday, cited a newspaper article that said the fund was earmarked as subsidy recovery funds by NNPC.

Olujimi highlighted the peculiarities of the fund, but noted that it was being managed by only two individuals in the NNPC "without appropriation and without recourse to any known law of the land".

She said: "I bring before this chamber this very important issue of national importance. It has to do with an article published in today’s ThisDay newspaper and it deals with the $3.5billion earmarked as subsidy recovery funds by the NNPC.

“Mr. President, since 1999, there has always been a budget for subsidy; however, this has been jettisoned by the current government, which leaves this administration in a very dire strait.

“What is happening now is that there is a fund named the ‘Subsidy Recovery Fund’ and it is being managed by only two individuals in the NNPC: the Managing Director and the Executive Director on Finance.

“This fund is too huge for two people to manage, and right now, the $3.5billion is too huge to be managed without appropriation and without recourse to any known law of the land.

“You remember Mr. President that following the passage of the budget, you mentioned in your remarks that there should be a budget for the subsidy and it should be brought before the National Assembly — that has not been done.

“What has happened is that by the report of ThisDay newspaper, it is almost certain that $3.5billion is a slush fund, which is just being managed by just two individuals — and that is not correct.

“I want to urge the Senate to cause the Committee on Downstream, chaired by Senator Marafa, to compel the NNPC to come before the Senate Committee and explain why this is so. Nigerians need to know what has happened to the funds that have been used so far — and the new terminology that is being used under subsidy recovery."

In his address on the issue, Senate President Bukola Saraki noted that the Senate had called for the executive to submit its petroleum subsidy budget to the National Assembly, when the 2018 budget was passed in May.

He said: “Distinguished Colleagues, when we passed the budget, I said that there was a need for the executive to bring forward the budget for the subsidy.

“In light of the enormity of the issues before us — where we are talking about a subsidy of almost $3.5billion — I would like to direct that the Senate Leader and the Chairman of the Committee of the Downstream, should urgently summon those in NNPC who are responsible for this. We must look into this matter and report back to the Senate plenary by next week, where the Committee will have a report that we can debate.

“On this issue, I do not want us to be speculative. Let us go by the facts, so that our contributions are not seen to be partisan. This matter is too serious for us to be partisan about it.

"A lot of us have been around long enough to know how this matter should have been treated. Now, it has gotten to a level where it involves over $3billion — which is not a small amount of money. With the leave of my colleagues, if we all accept, we direct the Leader and the Chairman of the Downstream Committee, to look into this matter and report to the Senate by next week."

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