The Senate has mandated its Joint Committees on Petroleum (Upstream and Downstream) and Finance to investigate the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiary, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), over non-remittance of $5.584 billion due to the Federation Account. The Upper Chamber also mandated the NNPC and the NPDC to immediately remit monies obtained on behalf of the Federal Government to the Federation Account.
It urged the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the NNPC to ensure compliance to the directive. It also directed the NNPC to, as a matter of urgency, forward to the National Assembly its yearly estimates for repairs and pipeline operations and maintenance for appropriation. The Chamber made these resolutions following a motion of urgent public importance brought to the floor during plenary by Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West), which he entitled: “the unlawful and wilful misappropriation and criminal holding of public revenue by the NNPC and NPDC from 2013 to date.”
While moving the motion, Melaye alleged that the diversion of oil revenue between the two agencies of government had continued unabated since 2013, lamenting that the NDPC had continued to lift crude oil from divested oil wells OML 61, 62, and 63 worth over $3.5 billion without remittance to the federation account.
He also said that the NDPC had continued to lift crude oil from divested oil wells OML 65, 111 and 119 to the tune of $1.85 billion, out of which only $100 million was remitted to government.
He said: “While this practice may have started before the present administration, it has continued under the watch of the new administration without abating. In 2016 alone, between January and August, a total of $344.442 million worth of oil was lifted by NPDC without remittance to Federation Account and also not paying royalties and other taxes on lifting.
“Despite the much trumpeted anti-corruption stance of the current administration, this level of corruption could still be nestled and tucked in by highly placed individuals derisive of the entire anticorruption fight,” he said. He said that the amount so far withheld could give additional 4,000 megawatts of electricity to the national grid, build about 11 world-class teaching hospitals, six healthcare centres in the 774 local governments in the country, among other things. Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, while contributing to the motion, expressed worries that such level of corruption could go on in a country currently facing recession.
“I support the motion. I want to emphasize that whenever the Senate receives something like this, we should know the seriousness we need to attach to it.
You can imagine what $3.5 billion will do to the economy in the face of recession,” Ndume said. However, Chairman, Senate Committee of Gas, Bassey Akpan, drew the attention of the Senate to the fact that part of the information provided in the motion was already in court, and that the Chamber should avoid committing contempt of court in the process of its investigation.
According to him, the allegation of crude oil lifting from divested oil wells OML 61, 62 and 63 was already in court and acting on it would amount to contempt of court. In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, called on the committees to thoroughly investigate the agencies and report to the Senate in plenary on January 9, 2017, when it would resume from Christmas recess. He stated that the apex chamber would continue to resist attempts to sabo- tage the effort of the current administration in the fight against corruption. Saraki said: “As part of our legislative agenda, we made a pledge to the electorate that we must put an end to this level of misappropriation and recklessness.
This must stop and I believe that these committees have the duty to ensure they get to the bottom of this.
“The frightening part about this is that it is not just about OML 61, 62 and 63. Secondly and even more worrisome, is that they did it in the last administration and they are still carrying out the practice. We must put an end to this. “We cannot continue with a situation where people are sabotaging the effort to fight corruption. We ask ourselves, where is the Minister of Petroleum, the Auditor General and anti-corruption agencies?” He urged relevant agencies, including the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and all anti-graft agencies to carry out their responsibilities effectively to be able to eliminate fraudulent practices in the economy.