Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Missing $20 billion: NNPC refuses to pay recovered $1.48bn, states begin probe

Members of the Federation Account Allocation Committee rose from a late meeting Monday night with a resolution to probe the circumstances surrounding the delay by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to remit to government the $1.48 billion (N294.5 billion) uncovered by a recent forensic audit.

The forensic audit conducted by the audit firm of PriceWaterHouseCoopers on behalf of the Federal Government on the operations of the NNPC had indicted the management of the national oil company for various questionable transactions.

The audit followed an allegation that the NNPC had failed to account for $20 billion oil money.

The audit only found $1.48 billion was missing, the Nigerian government said, after releasing some details of the report.

The government has refused to make the full report public.

Part of the recommendations in the report said the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, the upstream subsidiary of the NNPC, should refund the $1.48 billion to the Federation Account.

But, months after the Auditor General of the Federation, Samuel Ukura, who presented extracts of the report, asked thw NNPC to remit the funds, FAAC said no money has been paid.

Consequently, during the meeting for the month of March, FAAC constituted a ministerial committee to investigate the circumstances behind the delay.

The Chairman, Forum of Finance Commissioners of FAAC, Timothy Odaah, told reporters after the meeting on Monday that the committee was worried that the delay was negatively impacting the revenue available for distribution among the tiers of government.

Mr. Odaah said in spite of the directive by President Goodluck Jonathan for the funds to be released to the Federation Account, the NNPC was yet to comply about a month to the end of the current administration.

The Commissioner said the remittance of the funds has become compelling in view of the consistent drop in revenue allocations to the three tiers of government as a result of dwindling oil revenue from declining global oil prices.

“We (states) need the money to meet their obligations,” Mr. Odaah said. “Majority of the states are yet to pay salaries of workers and contractors for projects executed.

“We are making a clarion call for the release of the $1.48 billion from the forensic audit of the NNPC so that we can clear our debts.”

Since the next FAAC meeting in April would be the last for the present administration, Mr. odaah said the expectation of the states was that the money should come during that period.

The committee, the Chairman said, has been mandated to meet with the NNPC management to resolve all issues delaying the remittance, particularly as both the President and the Petroleum Resources minister have already directed that payment be made.

“We need that money. The Federal Government needs it. The states and local governments also need it, and if it is not released with this type of abysmal funding we have seen, it will be very terrible,” he said.

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