Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Property has described the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as a very important and transparent national institution, stating that Nigerians were being misled on the operations of the national oil company.
Chairman of the Panel, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, said this when members of his group visited the NNPC Towers, Abuja, to clear the air on issues relating to the operations of the state oil company.
Obono-Obla expressed the panel’s satisfaction with NNPC’s “frank and honest responses on the issues raised,” and described the corporation “as a very important and transparent national institution with a GMD (Group Managing Director) who has a track record of accountability and transparency in his public career.
“The GMD has a reputation of being an apostle of accountability and transparency. I feel very happy that somebody like him is coming out to clarify the key issues. Nigerians have been misled, it behooves on every organization to tell Nigerians the truth to engender transparency in the entire polity,” he said.
Speaking while receiving Obon-Obla and members of the panel at the NNPC Towers, the NNPC GMD, Mallam Mele Kyari, said the corporation had nothing to hide as it stood to gain a lot by being transparent in all areas of its operation.
“Every member of our management shares the vision of Mr. President that government’s institutions must be accountable to all Nigerians. We know that we will gain more by being more transparent. We have nothing to hide,” Kyari told the panel.
Kyari, while responding to the issues raised by the panel on the alleged underpayment of lease renewal fees on Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 67, 68, and 70 by ExxonMobil, said that the company paid $600 million which was their equity contribution of 40 per cent of the Joint Venture Agreement after which NNPC was to pay the remaining 60 per cent.
“Ordinarily, NNPC would have contributed the balance of 60 per cent of the amount, which literally meant government paying monies to itself. There was no need for that,” Kyari said.
He also cleared the air on the alleged breach of government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy by the corporation: “There is no single account NNPC is operating that is unknown to the feeral government.
“Any account(s) outside the TSA platform are partner accounts which we have obtained due approvals from the government,’’ he added.
Kyari observed that all monies belonging to the corporation were domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and that the corporation’s account managers remain the CBN and the Accountant General of the Federation.
Kyari also threw more light on the alleged non-remittances of taxes and royalties by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), NNPC’s upstream arm, by confirming that there were outstanding payments which arose as a result of the pillage that occurred before 2015.
He, however, assured the panel that this administration has made concerted efforts to reconcile every payment due to the Federation on taxes and royalties. “The only outstanding payment is the $600 million and we have a pre-payment plan with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) such that by mid-2020, we will have money left to be paid,” he noted.
He, however, averred that it was the responsibility of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to collect taxes and royalties from oil companies, including those on Joint Venture (JV) and Production Sharing Contract (PSC) arrangement.
Kyari further noted that the NNPC would provide the necessary support to the agencies concerned in that regard even though it had no legal obligation to do so. “As an enabler organisation, we will support them because we see our roles beyond our immediate responsibility,” he said.