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President Muhammadu Buhari appears determined to investigate the shady deals in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the nation’s cash cow. On Monday, June 29, the Federal Government constituted a panel to probe the management of Nigeria’s oil revenue between 2012 and May 2015. The panel will look into the allegation that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former minister of finance, spent $2.1 billion without authorization. It would also probe the allegation that the NNPC collected N8.1 trillion but remitted N4.3 trillion to the federation account within the period under review.
Members of the panel are Adams Oshiomhole, governor, Edo State, Governor Nasir el-Rufia of Kaduna State Governor, Governor Udom Emmanuel of AkwaIbom and Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State.
The panel stemmed from the observation of the National Economic Council that oil revenue was not properly accounted for during the tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan. The council’s meeting was chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, (SAN).
According to Oshiomhhole, the council looked at the numbers for the Excess Crude Account. “The last time the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, reported to the council, and it is in the minutes, she reported by November 2014 that we had $4.1 bn. Today, the Accountant-General Office reported we have $2.0bn. Which means the Honourable minister spent $2.1bn without authority of the NEC and that money was not distributed to states, it was not paid to the three tiers of government,” Oshiomhole told State House correspondents after the NEC’s 58th meeting in Abuja.
Oshiomhole said that the NNPC and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation were made to provide information on the total sales of Nigeria’s crude from 2012 to May 2015 for the first time. “We are talking about transparency; we are talking about change. And what we saw from those numbers, which I believe that Nigerians are entitled to know, is that whereas the NNPC claimed to have earned N8.1 trillion, what NNPC paid into the Federation Account from 2012 to May 2015 was N4.3 trillion.
“What it means is that the NNPC withheld and spent N3.8 trillion. The major revelation here is that the entire federation, that is the Federal Government, the states and all the 774 local governments, the amount the NNPC paid into the Federation Account for distribution to these three tiers of government came to N4.3 trillion and the NNPC alone took and spent N3.8 trillion.
“This means that the cost of running the NNPC is much more than the cost of running the Federal Government. That tells you how much is missing, what is mismanaged and what is stolen. There are huge figures.”
Oshiomhole wondered why an agency could spend without appropriation. “This is what the Constitution provided for and this is what President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to do; henceforth all money must go to the Federation Account. If you were doing that, you would not have a situation where the NNPC alone will spend N3.8trn and remit to the federal, states and local governments N4.3trn, which means NNPC is taking about 47 per cent and that explains all the leakages you are talking about,” he said.
Governor Abdulazeez Yari of Zamfara State, told journalists after the council’s meeting that Mr. M.K. Dikwa, Director of Funds, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation that council members received the report of the ECA and unremitted funds by the NNPC. He said: “On that line, a four-man committee consisting of the governors of Edo, Gombe, Kaduna and AkwaIbom states was constituted to go through the books of the NNPC and Excess Crude as well as the Federation Account.
“The four-man committee will check the books of the NNPC, most especially the issue of excess crude and what is not remitted into the Federation Account. The Federal Government, in conjunction with the Central Bank of Nigeria, will look inwards to see how to support and how much they will give to states, especially on the issue of outstanding salaries owed by the states and even the Federal Government.”
El-Rufai said that the Excess Crude Account is 52 per cent owned by the Federal Government and 48 per cent owned by the states and the local governments. “So the decision of the NEC is to set up this committee of four to look at the operations of the Excess Crude Account and make recommendations to council on its future. The other thing the committee will do is to look at the operations of the Federation Account, particularly the shortfall and again come back to council with very clear recommendations as to what to do.
“We have not been given a time frame but as you can imagine state governments are under pressure, many of our state governments are unable to pay salaries on time without recourse to borrowing, so this is very important to us. This is an all-governors’ committee; we wear the shoes and we know where they pinch. So we are going to do this as quickly as possible.”
He said that the next meeting of the council is on July 23 and was optimistic that the committee would complete its assignment by then and be in a position to report to council on that day.
By Dike Onwuamaeze