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Reps summon Okonjo-Iweala, Others Over Rice Importation



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  • as FG commences probe of fuel scarcity

Teddy Oscar, Abuja



The House of Representatives on Tuesday hinted that it has summoned three ministers, including Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, coordinating minister of economy and minister of finance; Mr. Olusegun Aganga, minister of trade and investment; and Mr. Akinwumi Adesina, minister of agriculture, to appear before its Committee on Customs to throw more light on the rice importation policy of the Federal Government.


Hon. Sabo Mohammed Nakudu, chairman of the committee, who made the disclosure on Tuesday and said that the appearance of the three ministers would be at a yet-to-be announced public hearing that would be organised by the committee.


Nakudu said that the committee’s resolve for the public hearing was sequel to a House resolution on the matter, which followed a motion moved by Hon. Nasiru Baballe Ila on February 19.


He said that the hearing would be to ascertain the level of the rice importation policy.


“(The policy)  has caused ripples in the country, and indeed caused a high loss to the government revenue. Already, the committee has written letters to the three ministers and other stakeholders, calling for position papers, and notifying them of the development,” he said.


The policy, which was introduced last year by the government, bans any form of rice importation into the country.


Following the introduction of the policy, rice smugglers have allegedly swung into action, causing Nigeria to lose over N300 billion late last year.

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Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Tuesday said that it has begun an investigation into the cause of the lingering fuel scarcity across the federation.


Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister of petroleum resources, who dropped the hint to newsmen, after a closed door session with the House of Representatives’ joint committees on petroleum (upstream), petroleum (downstream) and gas, revealed that the scarcity resulted from a hitch, which resulted in hoarding and diversion.


Promising that punitive measures would be meted out to those found culpable of the fuel scarcity, the minister said that the situation was now under control as the ministry was set to flood the country with the product next week.


“It was quite obvious that it could be caused by a number of things that we are looking into. There is some supply hitch, which we are looking into. There is also diversion, which was quite clear. There was an element of hoarding, as well. While we are trying to get to the bottom of who diverted what at the same time in terms of supply, we are trying to ensure that over the next week, we (will) flood the country with petroleum products,” she said.


The minister also debunked rumour of a planned increase in the pump price of petrol in the country.


“There was also some strange rumour that the ministry of petroleum resources was going to announce an increase in the pump price of petrol, which also helped to instigate some of the hoarding and some of the diversion. And I have said categorically over and over, and get that… we have no plans to increase the pump price of petrol anytime in the near future.

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“The issues of supplies, more and more PMS is being brought in, and over the next week or two, we would flood the country with the product. And in terms of the diversions, we would try and ensure that whichever stations we find to have actually diverted or hoarded the produce, we will take them up and implement punitive measures no matter which stations they are, whether they are NNPC stations or any other stations, independent or otherwise… we will take them up to face the full extant of the law,” she added.


It was also disclosed that the ministry had a total budget allocation of N60.7 billion in 2013, out of which N50.4 billion went to personnel cost, N1.8 billion for overhead and N8.5 billion went for capital expenditure.


The proposed budget allocation stands at N61.9 billion, out of which N53.8 billion is for personnel cost, N1.8 billion for overhead and N6.2 billion goes for capital expenditure.


“We will work to overcome challenges particularly on the revenues accruing to the federation account,” she promised.

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