Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate Committee on Gas Wednesday said it has uncovered multiple illegal withdrawals totaling $1.151 billion by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from its dividends with the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) from November 2016 to date, while $5 billion was also allegedly withdrawn by government from the same account in 2015 alone.
The amount is different from the $1.05 billion the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mikanti Baru, claimed the corporation withdrew from its dividend in NLNG to fund fuel subsidy when he appeared before the Senate ad-hoc committee headed by Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, last month.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, Senator Bassey Akpan ( Akwa Ibom North East), who made this disclosure yesterday evening when the committee met with top officials of both the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and NNPC for clarifications over the alleged illegal withdrawals, therefore directed the GMD of NNPC and CBN governor to appear before it next week Thursday to clarify the outrageous withdrawals.
The Senate had two weeks ago mandated its Committee on Gas to investigate the $1.05 billion illegally sourced from NLNG dividends by NNPC and to also determine if there were other illegal withdrawals.
In line with the committee’s mandate, Akpan declared at the meeting that “from the available documents before us, aside the $1.05 billion we are mandated by the Senate to investigate, several withdrawals have also been made from the NLNG dividends account without required supporting documents to back them.
“This is unacceptable to us, this very reason along with the fact that the GMD of NNPC and CBN governor are not here in persons, we are not going to continue with the session today (yesterday).”
He, therefore directed both the NNPC and CBN to furnish “this committee with other relevant documents on the withdrawals latest by next Tuesday while NNPC GMD, the corporation’s Group Executive Director ( Finance) , Isiaka Abdulrasak, and the CBN Governor , Godwin Emefiele, must appear before us next Thursday.”
The committee chairman further disclosed that even the approving memo tendered by NNPC for the withdrawal of the $1.05billion being investigated has no clear cut authorisation from required authorities.
Akpan said: “The memo ‘NNPC GMD 49’ signed by Baru sent through the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, has no clear cut language of request for approval for withdrawal of the $1.05billion but just notification.
“Even if it has, approval for withdrawal from such fund is supposed to be given by the National Economic Council (NEC) being an account or dividends owned by the three tiers of government.”
The senator gave an assurance that “we are surely going to carry out thorough investigation on the illegal withdrawals to put an end to the cycle because a whopping sum of $5billion was withdrawn from the same account in 2015 under this same government without any convincing explanations made so far on what the money was used for.”
The committee had earlier, while scrutinising the NLNG account documents presented to it particularly by the Chief Operating Officer of CBN Finance, Babatunde Adeniran, observed series of cash debited from the account from November 2016 to June this year totaling $2.201billion.
The breakdown of the withdrawals not supported by required approving documents as observed by the committee are $86.546,526million withdrawn from the account on November 22, 2016, allegedly being payment on Paris Club loans for the state governors, and $1.05 billion withdrawn on April 17, 2018, as National Fuel Support Fund.
Others are $650million withdrawn from the account on June 7 this year to offset the Joint Venture Cash Call by NNPC which ordinarily supposed to be budget item payment and $415, 063million withdrawn from the account also in June without clear explanation on the purpose for which it was meant for, he explained further.