Corruption : Alleged N621bn fund diversion: NUPENG, PTD shun National Assembly invitation

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and the Petroleum Tanker Drivers Union, on Tuesday, failed to appear before the National Assembly’s Joint Committees on Works over the alleged diversion of the N621bn road fund.

The leaderships of NUPENG and PTD had alleged that the fund allocated for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of federal roads was hijacked by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing together with some governors.

Consequently, the joint committee had invited the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), and leaders of the unions to respond to the allegation.

But the invitees failed to attend the investigative hearing organised by the committee, drawing the ire of the lawmakers.

The Chairman of the joint committee, Senator Adamu Aliero, described leaders of NUPENG and PTD as “liars” and “irresponsible.”

Aliero asked them to appear before the panel “in the next seven days.”

He said, “For someone to make this grave allegation and was given the opportunity to defend the allegations and decided not to come is either a liar or irresponsible. We are not going to take it lightly with them. We are going to compel them to appear and speak on the allegation.

“We have summoned both NUPENG and the petroleum tanker drivers to come and defend the allegation made, that N621bn had been hijacked by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing together with some governors, and this money is meant for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of 21 roads in the country.

“We felt that this allegation is very grave and serious. We need to investigate it properly to ascertain the veracity of the claim. That’s why we called the Ministry of Works and the minister responded with his directors.

“Members of the Senate and House Committees on Works are here. We don’t take allegations that have to do with public funds lightly. This is taxpayers’ money. We want to ensure that it is properly investigated. If they don’t come, we will compel them. We will issue a warrant.”

Meanwhile, the Senate, on Tuesday, confirmed the nomination of five executive directors of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.

The confirmation of the nominees followed the consideration and adoption of the report by the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), which had earlier screened the appointees of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

Those confirmed are Francis Ogaree (Hydrocarbon Processing Plants, Installations and Transportation Infrastructure); Dr Mustapha Lamorde (Health, Safety, Environment and Community); Mansur Kuliya (Midstream and Downstream Gas Infrastructure Fund); Bashir Sadiq, (Corporate Services and Administration); and Dr. Zainab Gobir, (Economic Regulations and Strategic Planning).

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Sabo Mohammed, in his presentation, recalled that the Senate had on February 8, 2022, considered Buhari’s request for the confirmation of the nominees.

Mohammed explained that the President’s request was in accordance with the provisions of Section 34(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021.

According to the lawmaker, the Act empowers the President to make appointments into the board of the NMDPRA, subject to the confirmation of the Senate, for a period of five years and may be reappointed for a second term and no more.

Mohammed said, “The nominees responded to the questions asked in an intellectual, factual and convincing manner. They exhibited a high level understanding of the challenges, complexities and opportunities inherent in the petroleum industry.

“Their knowledge and experiences will be of great benefit to the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority and the oil and gas sector in general.”

The chairman disclosed that the committee did not receive any petition against their nominations, adding that they were cleared by the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services and possessed the Code of Conduct acknowledgement slips.

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