Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido, struck a defiant tone again Tuesday, accusing state-run oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, of failing to pay to the federation account at least $20 billion of government oil revenues.
The Nigerian government and the NNPC in particular have come under intense scrutiny after a leaked letter from Mr. Sanusi to President Goodluck Jonathan last September showed how the NNPC failed to pay the huge oil sale money into government coffers.
In the memo, Mr. Sanusi said the firm cornered $49.8 billion- about N8 trillion- which is the equivalent of Nigeria’s entire budget in two years.
Despite data and documentation provided by the CBN governor, the government has denied losing money. At a meeting with the Senate Finance committee in December, Finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said a government inter-agency committee, which includes the NNPC and the CBN, had realized that “only” $10.8 billion was yet to be accounted for.
The traced sums were paid to other agencies of government like the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, and the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, the NNPC said.
The finance minister said the “reconciliation process” was ongoing and assured the outstanding $10.8 billion will be fully accounted for.
But more than a month later, the government has failed to account for the missing money. The Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, told the senate finance committee on Tuesday the delay was because the NNPC had failed to provide all needed documents.
He said the NNPC claimed it was still accounting for the missing money with the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, which is in charge of subsidy managements. The corporation and the PPPRA have another one week to provide all required documents before the committee begins full examination of their responses.
Intrigues ahead of Senate hearing
The NNPC had earlier claimed, without providing proof, that the remaining $10.8 billion was used to maintain oil pipelines, and pay fuel subsidy, a claim that many Nigerians, including governors, have rejected.
Last week, lawmakers told PREMIUM TIMES exclusively how the presidency, the NNPC and the petroleum ministry mounted pressure on the Senate to jettison its investigation.
According to our sources, the government feared Mr. Sanusi, whose tenure ends June 2014, will expose even more damaging evidence of high wire fraud in the petroleum sector.
The government offered to back the hearing if the senate committee makes available to it Mr. Sanusi’s presentation, to enable administration officials prepare appropriate response.
To stem the pressure, the investigative hearing, originally billed for last Thursday, was rescheduled for Tuesday.
At the session, Mr. Sanusi accused the NNPC of not accounting for $20 billion.
The CBN governor said while he agreed some agencies such as the FIRS received other payments on behalf of government, available documents showed that the NNPC shipped $67 billion but only paid $47 billion into the government account.
“Let us know what happened to the remaining $20 billion,” he said.
– Culled from PREMIUM TIMES