Nigerian lawmakers say ‘$50 billion trapped in NNPC system

26 October 2011, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Nigeria’s House of Representatives alleged on Tuesday that over $50 billion of the nation’s oil revenue was trapped at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

The House said the money is “in the hands of lifters of Nigerian crude oil”.

“Despite the enormous revenue that accrue to us from crude oil sales everyday, we continue to operate deficit budget simply because of our inability to track our revenue. Over $50 billion of crude oil revenue is still trapped in the hands of major lifters of Nigeria’s crude oil with the knowledge of NNPC,” Chairman of the Joint Committee on Finance, Petroleum Resources (upstream and downstream) and Gas Resources, Hon. Abdulmunim Jibrin, stated.

Jibrin further alleged that another $5 billion from the Excess Crude Account had been withdrawn without parliamentary approval.

Assuring that the trapped funds would be traced and returned to the Federation Account, he assured the officials of the NNPC that his committee was not on a witch-hunting mission.

The House, which planned to commence a probe into the N450 billion unremitted fund to the Federation Account by the NNPC on Tuesday, said it had to reschedule the exercise because key invitees were absent at the inquiry.

Those absent were the Co-ordinating Minster for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Dieziani Allison-Madueke; Governor of the Central Bank (CBN), Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; the Accountant General of the Federation as well as the Chief Executive of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauro.

Although the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Austin Oniwon, honoured the invitation, the lawmakers were not favourably disposed to start the probe since they needed the collaboration of the other key stakeholders to conduct a holistic investigation.

The public hearing was further stalled by the late submission of memoranda by almost all the organisations and institutions invited to the inquiry, forcing the lawmakers to defer the exercise for one week.

Jibrin, who announced the postponement of the investigations, said it would enable the committee to study all the documents submitted and allow the absentee personalities to return from wherever they had gone or free themselves from whatever engagement that prevented them from honouring the invitation of the parliament.

Members of the committee expressed disappointment at the turn of events and stressed the need for agencies of government to take invitations by the parliament seriously.

Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who declared the inquiry open, said the investigation became imperative following the persistent allegations of lack of transparency by the NNPC on the issue of remittance of revenue into the Federation Account.

“It has been in the public domain for a long time with public concern consistently on the rise. It is this growing public concern that culminated in the institution of the Committee by the House through a Resolution on 22 September 2011.

“Let me state that public allegations bordering on lack of transparency against persons, agencies or corporations are grave enough and deserving of prompt action by the representatives of the people who by oath are under a duty to uphold and defend this constitution,” Tambuwal said.

The House had at one of its plenary sessions mandated the joint committee to find out how the NNPC had been remitting revenues into the Federation Account in view of the importance of accurate revenue projection to the national budget.

The joint committee was expected to ascertain the level of compliance of the NNPC with section 162(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

About the Author