The immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, on Wednesday failed to appear before the ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives investigating the crude oil swap contracts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The former minister neither appeared in person nor sent a representative to the hearing of the committee, which is chaired by an All Progressives Congress lawmaker from Kwara State, Mr. Zakari Mohammed.
The committee had summoned Alison-Madueke and a former Managing Director of the Pipelines Product Marketing Company, Mr. Haruna Momoh, in connection with the lifting of crude oil worth $24bn in exchange for refined petroleum products.
Two crude oil trading firms, Duke Oil and Tranfigura reportedly lifted the crude oil between 2011 and 2014 without valid contracts.
The summons were issued after three former GMDs of the NNPC – Mr. Austin Oniwon, Mr. Andrew Yakubu and Mr. Joseph Dawha – had informed the committee that Alison-Madueke “approved” the contracts without signing any valid agreements with the firms.
On Wednesday, however, the former minister failed to show up at the committee’s sitting.
Momoh too did not come.
Instead, he sent his younger brother, Mr. Suleiman Momoh, to inform the committee that he was ill and would not be able to appear before the panel on Wednesday.
Mohammed was left bewildered when he called for appearances and realised that Alison-Madueke was absent.
He said the committee would take the “appropriate steps” to address the absence of the former minister, but he did not elaborate on the nature of the steps.
Mohammed stated, “Anybody who knows the former minister and Momoh should tell them that they are daring the parliament and we will take the appropriate measures against them.”
However, Momoh’s younger brother, Suleiman, rose to register an excuse that his elder brother was ill.
“He is ill and he will not be able to attend this session of the committee,” Suleiman added.
The committee rejected Suleiman’s excuse and directed him to tell Momoh that he must appear before the panel.
Meanwhile, the Federal Inland Revenue Service told the session that Transfigura defaulted in tax payments to the Federal Government to the tune of $642.5m.
The agency disclosed that in 2010, the tax value of the firm’s trading was $613.7m; in 2011, it was $2.7m; and $2.5m in 2012.
It added that the tax value in 2013 was $2.4m; and $2.2m in 2014.
The agency explained that after applying the relevant tax laws to the operations of the firm for the period covered, the total tax liability stood at $642.5m.
In the case of Duke Oil, the FIRS informed the panel that it calculated $4.7m as its total tax liability.
“The computation was based on the commissions Duke Oil charged on its services,” the agency said.
The committee also asked the Nigeria Customs Service to ignore a 2008 directive by the Ministry of Finance that the NCS should not inspect petroleum product cargo declared by importers.
The NCS had told the committee that the directive was given to forestall any possible delay in the offloading of products for distribution downstream.
Mohammed noted, “The Customs and Excise Act is more important than any letter from any ministry in 2008.
“We will invite the Permanent Secretary, who issued that directive, to appear before us and explain why it was necessary.”