The Senate has begun an investigation of the diversion of $1.05bn from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas dividend account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The upper chamber is specifically probing all withdrawals from the account and how the funds were spent.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Gas), Senator Bassey Akpan, raised a point of order at the plenary on Tuesday to urge the lawmakers to probe the withdrawal and payments.
The probe was separated from an earlier one by the Senate on illegal payments by the NNPC to augment the shortfalls between the landing cost and pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol).
Saraki had on Monday said the upper chamber of the National Assembly would further probe the claims by the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, on how and why the corporation was diverting the dividends from the NLNG dividend.
The Senate had set up an ad hoc committee chaired by the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, to investigate an alleged $3.5bn account kept by the NNPC for petrol subsidy payment.
Baru had while appearing before the committee last week, said the NNPC had only spent $1.05bn from the NLNG dividend account to defray the cost of “under-recovery” in the importation of fuel.
Calling for a separate probe, Akpan said, “The Senate Committee on Gas has received several calls, complaints and questions from the general public through telephone and emails on the authorised withdrawal of over $1bn from the proceeds of NLNG dividends account by the NNPC.
“The NLNG dividends account’s proceeds belong to the three tiers of government (federal, state and local governments) and come under the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Therefore, any unauthorised withdrawal from this account, without the approval of the National Assembly or any other structure of the government, is deemed to be illegal.
“I, therefore, seek the leave of Mr President to allow the Senate Committee on Gas to investigate this withdrawal and other withdrawals, and the way the account of NLNG is treated by the NNPC, and report back to the Senate.”
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, ruled that the committee should conduct the probe, decrying that the diversion would have been prevented if the panel had been enforcing its powers of oversight properly.
Saraki said, “I think you are asking us to give you an approval for what you have powers to do, anyway. These are your powers and even with the fact that we are reading about it (in the media), it shows that the necessary oversight – effective oversight – as required from you needs to be done. But if you want the approval to do the work that you have the powers to do anyway, you need to do the work properly. If you have done the work properly, it should not have gotten to this point. So, get on with it.”
Lawan, however, challenged the ruling by Saraki allowing the Akpan-led committee to conduct a fresh probe when an existing ad hoc panel was already handling the matter.