• It Is Political Victimisation — Firms
• We Have Nothing To Hide — Marketers
BARELY five days after it directed its ad hoc committee on petroleum products subsidy to issue fresh invitations to 17 oil companies, which did not participate in the recent probe, the House of Representatives yesterday said the firms would be risking arrest if they refuse to appear before the probe panel within the two-week “grace period. ”
Speaking through its Committee on Media and Public Affairs at the weekend, the House said the firms have no option than to appear as directed by the committee.
Vice chairman of the Media and Public Affair Committee, Victor Ogene, in a telephone interview yesterday, also dismissed speculations that the “indicted” firms were already making overtures to the House, through the its Ad Hoc Committee, with a view to compromising it.
According to Ogene, “The 17 firms cannot ignore the Ad Hoc committee. If others, which are over 70, could not do so, the remaining 17 will fail if they attempt. The committee will never accept any overture of any kind from any of the firms.”
On options available to the oil firms, he said: “They have no option than to appear before the committee because that is the decision we have reached. The essence of the resolution was to give them the opportunity to respond to the allegations against them.
“The House believes that their right to fair hearing must not be jettisoned. The committee has been strictly empowered to invite them and they must appear to answer whatever question raised.
“It must be stated that the resolution is so strong that the 17 oil firms cannot ignore it. Mere submission of memoranda would not do, because their directors must appear to answer questions. It must also be pointed out that the committee has the power to compel them to appear if they fail.”
Following allegation of bias, lack of fair hearing, political witch-hunting and subterfuge, the House, which considered the Farouk Lawan Committee Report, was forced to soft-pedal on some of the far-reaching recommendations that affect some of the oil companies. The result is that they (the firms) were asked to appear before the Committee within a period of two weeks. The Nigeria National Petroleum Commission (NNPC), for instance, was asked to refund billions of Naira to the Federal Government treasury. Others that received some spanking include, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), the Accountant-General’s Office, former Accountant General of the Federation and incumbent Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dakwambo and, at least, three accounting firms, among others.
Alleging witch-hunting and political victimisation, the marketers, who responded to the issue, at the weekend, denied involvement in the alleged scam. Some of them also gave the assurance that they would appear before the House within the specified period.
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