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Senate summons ministers, marketers over fuel scarcity

Published by Guardian on Thu, 23 Feb 2012

Rejects CBN,NYSC amendment billsSENIOR officials of the Federal Government, including ministers and heads of key agencies in the oil sector are to appear before the Senate today to explain the biting fuel scarcity in some states of the federation and Abuja, the nation's capital.Among the officials to appear before the Upper House are the Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister, Dr.Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Austen Oniwon.Also yesterday, the Senate rejectedmoves to amend the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Acts.Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Magnus Abe,who issued the invitation to the affected officials, said the three ministers were being summoned to explain why the fuel scarcity had persisted.'As you can see, for some days now in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and some parts of the country, there are queues and people have been wondering what the matter really is. As a responsible and responsive parliament, we want to find out the problem and find solution to it. That is why we have invited the ministers to see how we can find a way out of the problem,'' he said.Also invited by the committee are the Managing Director of the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Haruna Momoh, Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Reginald Stanley, Director of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Dapo Olorunshola.The panel also summonedtheleadership of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN). They are expected to appear before the committee today.Meanwhile, the chamber has rejected a move to amend the Acts establishing the CBN and the NYSC.Sponsor of the bill seeking to amend the CBN Act, Ita Enang, who led the debate, said it sought to make it an offence to denominate goods and services offered within Nigeria in any foreign currency other than the naira and to give the CBN powers to prohibit all transactions in foreign currencies within the country.He argued that developed countries such as the United States (U.S.) and the United Kingdom (UK) allow their currencies to assume the status of 'universal currencies,' adding that 'it is very disturbing that the dollar is gradually becoming the silent but unofficially legal tender of Nigeria.''He lamented that 'in some sectors, it has been held that the preference for the dollar against the naira shows lack of faith in our sovereignty, our Nigerianness and our economy.''Enag further said that the bill also sought to compel CBN to submit its yearly budget to the National Assembly for approval.The Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, noted that Nigeria engages in oil and gas business and it would be difficult to conduct all businesses in the local currency. He also said the Senate had earlier taken a position that CBN and agencies, which were hitherto not bringing their budgets to the legislature should do so or risk zero allocation. He, therefore, declared that there was no need for any bill on the matter.Most of the senators in the chamber agreed with him and upon advice by the Senate President David Mark, Enag withdrew the bill for further consultation.The reported killing of NYSC members in the North, which prompted Olubunmi Adetunmbi to sponsor a bill seeking amendment of the Act setting up the scheme was also defeated.The bill, titled an 'Act to amend the National Youth Service Corps Act Cap No. 84,'' however, could not scale the second reading as thechamber advised that it be withdrawn as it must go through the amendment of theConstitution.Adetunmbi highlighted the 2011 crises where over 50 corps members were killed, several others wounded, raped and assaulted in civil disturbances and unrests. 'In response to the ugly developments, some people have called for an outright scrapping of the scheme but I sincerely believe that an amendment in the statute establishing the Act aimed at curbing some of the identified challenges will suffice,'' he submitted.The amendments proposed in the bill included the prohibition of the posting of corps members to crisis-ridden states and giving the corps members the right to reject posting to such states. Noting that the objective of the scheme had been eroded and the spirit of members dampened by the spate of rejection by government organisations they are posted to for their primary assignment, he called for a third amendment, which would make it mandatory for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to accept corps members. Mark opposed the aspect of the bill that sought to empower corps members to reject posting to certain areas, pointing out that it could be abused as members would unjustifiably reject their postings.The bill was thereafter withdrawn for further legislative consultations.The Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has condemned the alleged failure of Julius Berger Construction Company and other firms in the construction industry to appear before it over alleged fraudulent practices in their handling of some projects.Chairman of the panel, Smart Adeyemi, warned that subsequent defaulters would be dealt with accordingly. He added that no company, irrespective of its financial status, should regard itself as superior to others. Adeyemi said Julius Berger's failure to appear before the panel was a slap not only on the lawmakers but also on other Nigerians.Julius Berger had sent a letter of apology to the committee stating that those who could speak on its behalf were out of the country. It, therefore, urged the panel to reschedule the meeting. Adeyemi insisted that similar development in future would not be tolerated.
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