FEBRUARY 26, 2014 BY JOHN AMEH, ABUJA
The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative said on Wednesday that a whopping $22.8billion was yet to be declared by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in its alternative funding arrangements with Joint Venture Partners.
NEITI told the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) that the findings came out of its audit report on the finances of the oil corporation for 2009 to 2011.
The committee, which is headed by Mr. Ajibola Muraina, is investigating the alleged connivance of the NNPC with Swiss oil trading companies to “defraud Nigeria of billions of dollars of crude oil revenue.”
The country had reportedly lost about $6.8billion as of 2013 to the connivance, which the ‘Bernes Declaration’ said involved the sale of Nigeria’s crude oil below international prices.
Only on Tuesday, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, had appeared before the committee to deny the Bernes Declaration.
But, on Wednesday, the turn of NEITI to testify, the Executive Secretary, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said the agency did not only agree with the allegation by the Bernes Declaration, but that its audit report also indicted NNPC.
Ahmed faulted Yakubu’s denial. She noted for example, that the NNPC used an exchange rate different from that of the CBN in its transactions, resulting in the loss of N98.3billion to the country between 2009 and 2011.
She promised the committee that she would make a comprehensive analysis of the link between the NEITI audit report and the Bernes Declaration, both confirming the connivance with foreign oil trading companies to short-change Nigeria.
Ahmed said, “There is similarity in NEITI’s audit report and the Bernes Declaration report.
“The report (Bernes Declaration) has a lot of substance in it. NEITI will go back and link the Bernes Declaration report with the NEITI audit report.”
She also told the committee that NEITI strongly opposed the daily allocation of 445,000 barrels of crude to the NNPC on the grounds that the corporation did not have the capacity to utlilise the crude.
According to her, the refineries in the country lack the capacity to refine the crude, calling on the Federal Government to review the policy.
Ahmed, who urged government to urgently privatise the refineries, added, “the 445,000 barrels per day allocation should be reviewed to the actual refining capacity of the refineries.”
On his part, the Managing Director of the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, Mr Haruna Momoh, defended the swap arrangement of crude for refined products between the NNPC and its foreign trading partners.
He denied that the country lost $8billion annually to the arrangement as widely believed.
Momoh explained that the arrangement was the reason the country no longer experienced acute scarcity of petroleum products.
The committee later adjourned hearing till March 25, but not before summoning the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mrs. Sarah Alade, to appear before it in connection with the investigation.
Also summoned were the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.
However, the troubles of the NNPC were not over yet, as the House Committee on Finance accused the corporation of withholding N105billion of independent revenue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
At a separate meeting with the NNPC, the Chairman of the committee, Dr. Jubrin Abdulmumin, said records before the committee indicated that the money had not been remitted.
Jibrin stated that the committee got the records from the Budget Office of the Federation.
However, NNPC’s Chief Strategist, Mr. Tim Okon, who led a team of the corporation to the meeting, expressed surprise over the information.
He claimed not to be aware that the corporation owed such a staggering amount.
In a response, Jibrin dared him to put his denial in writing and forward it to the committee on Thursday.
The National Agency for Science, Engineering and Infrastructure, also claimed not to be aware that its 2014 budget was N80million instead of N29million.
The committee directed the agency to write the denial and forward to members.