The debate over who should be held responsible for the dwindling oil resources in the country took a new dimension yesterday, as the Joint House Committees on Petroleum Upstream and Gas Resources took a swipe at the House Committee on Finance for blaming the revenue shortfall on the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Last week, the Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, had asked the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) to direct their grievances over the revenue shortfall to the petroleum minister rather than the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, whom a faction of the NGF had asked to resign for the non-implementation of the 2013 budget.
But in a statement made available to journalists yesterday, the Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Hon. Ajibola Muraina and Chairman, House Committee on Gas Resources, Hon. Bassey Ewah, took exception to the comments made by Jibrin.
The duo said Jibrin went beyond his boundaries in the comments credited to him and accused him of misleading Nigerians on what was going on in the petroleum ministry and the NNPC.
They urged Jibrin to concentrate on the work of the finance committee instead of dabbling in other people’s jurisdictions.
According to the joint statement, the rules of the House stipulate that the Committees on Petroleum and Gas have primary jurisdiction over the Ministry of Petroleum and its agencies, and other committees of the House can only request for first hand information whenever they need to comment on issues in the sector.
They argued that the comment by Jibrin was not only beyond his brief but amounted to an indictment on the committees that have direct oversight on the petroleum sector.
“We have noted with great concern Hon. Abdulmumini’s attempt to divert Nigerians’ attention from the statement credited to the NGF on where and how the Sovereign Wealth Fund is being managed which falls within the purview of his office as the Chairman Committee on Finance.
“It is indeed the saddest day for our democracy and it smacks of compromise that a legislator, and of course, the Chairman of the Committee on Finance of the House of Representatives is now the public relations officer of a minister he is meant to oversight.
“We would have dismissed this statement in the greater interest of protecting the image and sanctity of the House of Representatives (so that the institution will not be seen as divided against itself), but this
rejoinder has become imperative on account of the following: Hon Abdulmumin’s press statement is an indictment that the petroleum committees of the House of Representatives are not performing their oversight functions as required by the rules of the House.
“There have been several similar misleading comments in the media concerning the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NNPC by Hon. Abdulmumin Jubrin.
“As colleagues, we have had cause to bring these actions of his to the attention of the appropriate quarters. His latest outburst is not a product of any parliamentary proceedings. It is a reaction to the complaints made by some governors on the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
“The Minister of Finance is capable of responding to the complaints made by these governors and should have been allowed to defend herself.
“But our colleague improperly turned himself to the spokesman of the Minister of Finance,” they said.
The duo described as ridiculous the allegations made by Jibrin wherein he accused the Minister of Petroleum Resources of “superintending over a massively corrupt” sector.
“Let it be known that the petroleum committees of the House have always been alert to their oversight responsibilities. We have been asking relevant questions from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and its agencies and they have always provided the required information,” the statement read.
But in a swift reaction, Jibrin said it was unfortunate that his comments had inadvertently provoked angry reactions from his colleagues, adding, nonetheless, he stood by his comments that the issue of dwindling revenue would be better addressed by the Minister of Petroleum Resources who oversees the main sector that yields revenue for the country.
Jibrin conceded that the Committees on Petroleum Resources and Gas had oversight responsibilities on the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, but reminded them that the jurisdiction of the Committee on Finance extends to any area where the federal government earns revenue.
According to Jibrin, Section 155 of the House Standing Rules gives the Committee on Finance exclusive right to raise issues in all sectors of the economy including petroleum as long as government earns revenue from such sectors.
He explained that the finance committee has oversight responsibility over key elements of the oil sector such as the oil production quota and oil price benchmark, which form an integral part of the Medium Term Expenditure (MTEF) Framework and the national budget.
“These my colleagues claim that my comments on the petroleum minister and the NNPC was an indictment on their committees, I beg to disagree, because every day people, including lawmakers, criticise the Minister of Finance and I do not take it as an indictment on my committee.
“I also want to state categorically clear that I am not the mouth piece of Okonjo-Iweala. I only made a comment based on facts and I stand by my comments because the facts are very clear.
“The revenue comes from the petroleum sector and it is only at the end of the month that the Minister of Finance gets reports about how much crude oil has been sold and how much had accrued to the nation,” Jibrin said.
Information from This Day was used in this report.