The Unrepentant Culprit

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The monthly Federation Account Allocation Committee meeting ran into a stalemate last Tuesday following disagreements over revenue figures turned in by the NNPC. Ndubuisi Francis finds the national oil corporation habitually under declares proceeds

Tuesday’s deadlock was not the first time a Federation Account Allocation Committee meeting would end in a stalemate, and it would not be the last. It has been a recurring decimal over the years. The one before the latest was on November 23 last year, when discrepancies in revenue figures also led to the postponement of the FAAC meeting where revenue for the month of October would have been shared. It was only on December 7 that the meeting was finally held and allocations were distributed to the various tiers of government, for the month of October 2017.

In the latest logjam, the usual culprit was the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

Prior to Tuesday’s plenary, a week-long technical sessions of FAAC, which usually precede the plenary, were on to reconcile figures. Such sessions provide opportunities for the members to, among others, look at figures turned in by revenue generating agencies.

But while the technical sessions sat to reconcile revenue figures provided by other agencies for the month of February, NNPC was said to have made its own figures available only on Monday, less than 24 hours to Tuesday’s plenary. This put the technical team under pressure. They could not agree on the revenue figure remitted by the NNPC into the Federation Account for the month of February vis-à-vis the actual amount generated.

Investigations showed that the bone of contention revolved around discrepancies amounting to N37.76 billion in revenue presented by the NNPC. The corporation remitted N74.06 billion into the Federation Account as oil revenue generated in the month of February, for sharing in March. Juxtaposed against the collection of N111.84 billion in January 2018, the February collection of N74.06 billion was lower by N37. 76 billion, or 33 per cent.

The NNPC figures were particularly considered unacceptable by the commissioners for finance from the 36 states of the federation.

Midway into the FAAC plenary presided over by the Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, on Tuesday, the commissioners staged a walk-out from the auditorium of the Ministry of Finance, Abuja venue of the meeting.

At the Foyer of the auditorium, the various commissioners were heard calling their respective governors to intimate them about the NNPC scenario. Soon after they were done with their consultations and went back to the auditorium, the meeting was declared inconclusive.

Briefing journalists, the AGF stated that the meeting was inconclusive because of irregularities in figures presented by the NNPC.

Idris stated, “Obviously, you are all aware that anything that has to do with federation revenue is statutory and, therefore, constitutional and we must always verify our figures to the last kobo. Failing to do so will amount to committing illegality and unconstitutionality.

“It is on this note that we observe some issues in the figures given by one of the major revenue generating agencies namely the NNPC. The committee is of the opinion that until and unless these figures are reconciled, corrected, verified and factual, we cannot distribute the revenue as the case is.

“Let me again be quick to inform Nigerians that we are sensitive with the issue and to the fact that state governments may find it difficult without this money. But we have to follow the constitution and the laws for distribution of revenue.”

In the same vein, Chairman of the Commissioners for Finance Forum, Mr. Mahmoud Yunusa, said the commissioners rejected the amount presented by the NNPC because it was far lower than what was projected for the month. According to him, if the NNPC could not surpass what it remitted in January, the corporation should not bring anything below what it turned in the previous months.

Yunusa said, “We started this meeting last week and NNPC did not submit their figures until yesterday (Monday), which we were not able to review until this morning. This morning, when we were reviewing the figures as presented by the NNPC, it came as a great surprise to see that the amount was less than N100 billion.

“So we (states) decided that we will not collect the amount presented, we are contesting the figures because pipeline vandalism has reduced, while crude oil prices have continued to go up.

“On this note, we are wondering why the nation cannot raise enough money through that sector to share to states so that everyone can pay workers, contractors and so on.

“We are well aware that this development may affect the payment of salaries in states, but we cannot hurriedly accept this money and then later cry foul play.

“So, we should all be patient. But we hope that with this latest development, NNPC will do the needful as soon as possible.”

Few hours after the FAAC meeting ended in a stalemate, it was reconvened by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the next day. At the reconvened meeting, the various tiers of government shared N647.39 billion for the month of February, as reported exclusively by THISDAY the previous day.

Adeosun said she personally engaged the state governors in a meeting last Tuesday night to resolve the impasse.

She said, “The figure for this month is higher than last month’s. There are issues that we would take up with NNPC, but those issues notwithstanding, we should go ahead and conclude the meeting. We would sit down with the GMD of NNPC or his representatives. We would hopefully sit down within the next 48 hours to thrash out subsisting issues.”

Following, the conclusion of the FAAC meeting, culminating in the distribution of revenue to the various tiers of government, the AGF signed the mandates for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay the approved revenue allocation into the accounts of the federal, states and local governments.