Committee queries presentation of dollar remittances in naira
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
Twenty oil companies out of the 31 invited by the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to an interactive session aimed at reconciling accounts for the three per cent development tax were absent at the meeting on Thursday.
Oil firms operating onshore and offshore, and gas processing companies operating in the Niger Delta region are required to contribute three per cent of their annual budget estimates to the NDDC to develop the region.
A few of the companies, including Addax Petroleum, were regarded as absent by the lawmakers, for sending officials below the rank of General Manager to represent their Managing Directors.
The Chairman of the Committee, Peter Nwobochi, frowned at the development, describing it as a disrespect for the parliament.
He also expressed displeasure at the firms who chose to send officials below the rank of General Manager, adding that the concession to accept the rank was made during the meeting, even though the committee was initially insistent on having at least the rank of Executive Director.
“These companies that have refused to come here today would be given one more chance. The secretariat is directed to do a strongly worded letter to them. I hope they would not make us exercise our constitutional right,” he said.
The Committee heard from the Managing Director of Brittania-U Nigeria Ltd, Mrs. Uju Ifejika, that the company has not paid the three per cent tax since its establishment in 2010.
Ifejika said the law did not take into cognisance small oil firms, and added that the firm has however been living up to responsibilities to the community where it is operating from. “We have never had any issue of shut down. We are the only oil company that gave two per cent equity stake in our block to our community,” she said.
Ifejika however expressed readiness to sit down with the acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Mrs. Ibim Semenetari, to work out a payment plan.
Nwobochi, who earlier in the session, exchanged light hearted banners with Ifejika, urged her to commence payment in the earliest time possible.
“The law was already in place before some of you entered the business, and you knew about this tax requirement. So, there should be no excuse for not paying it in six years,” Nwobochi said.
Hon. Michael Eyong berated what he called a pattern of deceit by many of the firms, who were supposed to provide the three percent immediately their annual budgets have been developed.
“There must be reprisals. This tax was imposed to develop the region where they do business,” he said. The acting MD of NDDC, Semenetari, told the Committee that while some of the companies pay, they do not do so in full compliance with the law.
She disclosed that the commission has received about $15 billion since its inception as tax.
She was however queried for providing the figures of the remittances of Platform oil company, in Naira, N944.4 million, when it was received in dollars.
Officials of Platform disclosed that the company has paid over $6 million since its establishment in 2008. Hon. Rima Shawulu said presenting dollar remittances in naira does not make accounting or financial sense. “…because you have presented to the committee documents showing dollar payments from other companies. Why would that of Platform oil be recorded in naira? It means somebody in your tax management is playing pranks. You have to prove at what rate the money was converted,” he said.
Nwobochi directed her to contact the bank, to determine the times of payment, and the exchange rate at the time.
The Committee urged Semenetari to engage the services of consultants to reconcile the accounts for the tax with the companies, to determine the exact amount being owed to the commission.