FG begins probe of NNPC
MINUTES after it was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, the National Economic Council (NEC) raised a four-member committee to probe alleged misappropriation of more than N3.5 trillion from the coffers of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as well as N2 trillion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA).
The decision was in keeping with promises made by the President on various occasions to probe alleged sleaze in the corporation and bring culprits, if any, to book.
Meanwhile, governors who had thought the Federal Government would help them with a bail-out may have been disappointed as President tasked them to urgently explore efficient means of defraying all unpaid salaries of workers in their states. He noted that unpaid salaries have brought untold hardship to thousands of families of the affected workers.
The NEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo named the governors of Edo, Gombe, Kaduna and Akwa Ibom as members but did not announce the chairman.
The committee is expected to turn in the outcome of its findings during the next meeting of the NEC on July 23, 2015.
At a joint media briefing by governors Abdulazeez Yari (Zamfara); Adams Oshiomhole (Edo); Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom) and Ibrahim Dankwanbo (Gombe), it emerged that the decision to investigate how the monies were spent followed a briefing by the Director in-charge of Funds at the Accountant-General’s Office.
Going into specifics, Oshiomhole disclosed that from the records, the NNPC claimed to have earned a total of N8.1 trillion from2012 to May 2015, out of which it remitted N4.3 trillion into the Federation Account, but could not account for N3.5 trillion.
On the Excess Crude Account, Oshiomhole disclosed there was $4.1 billion in the account as at November 2014, when the former Coordinating Minister of the Economy (CME) and Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala reported to the Council, but that as of yesterday, what was left in the coffers was $2 billion, which meant that $2 billion had been spent allegedly without authorisation.
According to Oshiomhole: “This is the first time we had a NEC meeting in which under the instruction of the President, that the NNPC and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation were compelled to provide information in black and white on issues as they relate to the total sales of Nigeria’s crude from 2012 to May 2015. This has never happened before and for us this is profound.
“We are talking about transparency, we are talking about change. I believe that Nigerians are entitled to know 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 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 the three tiers of government came to N4.3 trillion and NNPC alone took and spent N3.8 trillion. Which means the cost of running NNPC is much more than the cost of running the Federal Government. That tells you how much is missing, what is mismanaged, what is stolen. These are huge figures.
“We need to earn and spend. It is basic law in accounting that even if you run a cigarette shop where you sell Three-Rings, you don’t sell and spend. You sell, take to your bank account and budget for your procurement including cost of running your business.
“We looked at the numbers for the Excess Crude Account. The last time the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy reported to the Council in November, and it is in the minutes, she said we had $4.1 billion. But today, the Accountant General’s Office reported we have $2.0 billion, which means, the minister spent $2.1billion without authority of the NEC. That money was not distributed to the three tiers of government. This is why the NEC has set up a panel to look at what accrued, what it was spent for, and by whom, so that Nigerians will have the full picture of all the transactions as regards the much talked about Excess Crude.”
El-Rufai also spoke on the Excess Crude Account, which he said was started by former President Olusegun Obasanjo about 2004-2005, claiming, he was part of the decision that led to the creation the Excess Crude Account.
“It was administrative arrangement to save for the rainy day. And it was meant to have very clear accountability such that every state and local government, in a particular state knows their balance in the Excess Crude Account, though you can’t spend it but you know how much of it is yours. That was the arrangement. And in those days, before we spend any money from the Excess Crude Account, the federal and state governments would meet and agree. That is how we agreed to build the seven power stations which is NIPP today, it was from Excess Crude Account and also we met and agreed to build the Lagos – Kano Standard Gauge Rail Line.
“But what we have seen, in the last few months or years is that the Excess Crude Account was operated unilaterally by the Federal Government, drawings were made unilaterally without consulting those that actually own the money because the Excess Crude Account is 52 per cent owned by the Federal Government and 48 by the states and local councils. 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 accounts particularly the shortfall and again come back to council with very clear recommendations as to what to do.”
He said that though the committee had not been given time frame with which to complete its assignment, he hoped that between yesterday and the next scheduled meeting of the Council, the committee would have concluded its assignment.
His words: “We have not been given a time frame but as you can imagine states government 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-governor committee. We wear the shoes we know where it pinches. So we are going to do this as quickly as possible.
“The next meeting of the council is on July 23, we hope to complete our work and be in position to report to council on that day. So within the next one month we are done by God’s grace.”
Speaking during the inauguration, Buhari had told NEC members to kick-start the task of ensuring growth, job creation and equity, by cultivating a culture of prudent management of resources at all levels of government.
He said: “This will entail looking inwards to secure sustainable ways of increasing Internally Generated Revenue (IGR); and harnessing growth potential of each state to supplement the Federation Account allocation to states.
“The states are also encouraged to embark on projects that will meet immediate needs of the people taking account of available resources. I therefore urge Council members to consider, as a matter of urgency, exploring efficient means of gradually liquidating all unpaid salaries of staff, which have brought untold hardship to thousands of families.”
Buhari also reminded the governors of the need for states to cooperate by working closely on projects such as interstate and feeder roads, soil erosion, desertification and other developmental programmes, noting that Nigeria was one and “we who have the responsibility to run it lead by example. As far as it is possible there should be distance between politics and development programmes.”
He said the Federal Government would abide by the provisions of Sections 80 and 162 of the Constitution and ensure more accountability, transparency and integrity in the distribution of the Federation Account.