BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

Reps summon Emefiele, FIRS chair over subsidy payments

The House of Representatives has summoned Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and Muhammad Nami, the chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIR) to appear before it for questioning on issues bordering on the payment of subsidy on petroleum products for about 10 years.

The house ad-hoc committee investigating oil subsidy payments between 2013 and 2022, issued the summon following the failure of Emefiele and Nami to appear before it at the National Assembly, Abuja on Thursday.

The lawmakers were angry that the CBN governor sent a deputy director, Hussein Kagara, while the FIRS chairman would be represented by his special assistant, Gabriel Ogunjemiluri when such a critical issue affecting the commonwealth of Nigeria was being discussed.

Moving the motion for the summon, a member of the committee, Mark Gbillah (NNPP, Benue) said the absence of Emefiele and Nami showed they were less concerned about a serious national matter like fuel subsidy which gulps the economy a whooping N6.7 trillion in a year.

Gbillah said, “N6.7 trillion in less than a year is being expended on subsidy. We expected that the CBN governor would come here personally to address such an issue and the FIRS chairman as well. I guess they believe this issue is not important enough for them to be here.

“So, Mr chairman in my own opinion, I don’t think we should bother hearing any of the representatives of these two agencies that are here. We would like the CBN governor and FIRS chairman to be here in person before this honourable committee of the house to address this critical issue.”

Another member of the committee, Abdul Ganiyu-Olododo (APC, Kwara) wondered why the FIRS chairman would send his personal staff to appear before the parliament on such a critical issue and the CBN governor would be represented by someone who is not even a director, saying it was an insult to Nigerians whom the lawmakers represent.

Read also: A-Z Petroleum seeks Reps’ intervention in N30bn FG’s subsidy debt

“How can a chairman of an organisation like FIRS send an assistant, a special assistant for that matter, it is an insult to this institution in view of the seriousness of this assignment.

“Mr chairman I want to suggest that the special assistant should go back and inform the chairman (of FIRS) that the letter written to them requested the chairman to appear before this honourable committee with documents.”

Kagara, representative of the CBN governor had told the lawmakers that he could only answer questions relating to technical issues of subsidy payments when Ibrahim Aliyu sought his competence on the subject matter of the probe.

He also said the CBN could not print the documents requested by the committee because they were too voluminous, adding that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) has 200 accounts domiciled with the apex bank and they are being asked for.

“If all the questions that you are going to ask are related to technical matters that concern subsidy payments, I will be able to provide answers here but if they are outside the technical aspects of the subsidy transaction, then I will not be able to respond.

“With respect to the issue of documents, the truth of the matter is that some of these documents are actually voluminous and we can’t be able to print most of these documents.

“For example, in one of your requests, you asked us to produce all the accounts of NNPC that are domicile with the CBN. NNPC has close to 200 accounts with the CBN and they are voluminous,” the CBN deputy director said.

Aliyu, before ruling told the CBN representative that: “There are areas that you cannot answer, you see this is the fundamental reason why the senior members of the management are supposed to appear before the committee.

“We are left with no alternative than follow the procedure of the house. Where you cannot provide hardcopies (requested documents) provide soft copies. We will expect you on August 18, 2022.”

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