HURIWA demands independent judicial commission to probe NNPCL's alleged N3.3tn subsidy inflation

Tue, Jun 11, 2024
By editor
5 MIN READ

Politics

IN the light of a recent forensic audit by KPMG uncovering a staggering N3.3 trillion discrepancy in the fuel subsidy claims made by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has called for an urgent investigation.

The prominent civil rights advocacy group stated that the audit allegedly revealed that the NNPCL significantly inflated its subsidy claims, raising serious concerns about financial mismanagement under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

In a press statement, HURIWA stated: “The KPMG audit, reported by iWitnessLive, found that NNPCL claimed to have spent N6 trillion on fuel subsidies, while the actual expenditure was much lower. Mele Kyari, NNPCL’s Group CEO, stated that the federal government still owes N2.8 trillion for petrol subsidy payments, which the NNPCL covered from its cash flow. Despite provisions of N6 trillion in 2022 and N3.7 trillion in 2023, Kyari mentioned that no payments had been received from the federal government, leaving the NNPCL waiting to settle N2.8 trillion.

“In response to these findings, the Nigerian government has announced plans to conduct a fresh audit of the NNPCL’s N2.8 trillion fuel subsidy claim. This new audit, covering the years 2015 to 2021, will be led by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation, OAuGF, with the possibility of involving an external firm for additional support. The decision, made during a Federal Account Allocation Committee, FAAC, meeting in March 2024, emphasized the need for an independent audit to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure objectivity.

“During the FAAC meeting, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, reportedly highlighted President Bola Tinubu’s commitment to the forensic audit. Commissioners from various states expressed their perspectives with the Ogun State Commissioner for Finance advocating for an independent auditor to ensure a conflict-free exercise benefiting all tiers of government. The Niger State finance commissioner supported this stance, emphasizing inclusiveness and objectivity. However, Rivers State noted that an independent auditor does not guarantee success and recommended a combined approach with OAuGF and external firms.

“The Federal Commissioner, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission/Chairman, Indices and Disbursement, explained that the audit aims to resolve outstanding claims, including the reduced N2.7 trillion claim against NNPCL Limited. KPMG’s initial audit recommended further investigation. The meeting concluded with an agreement that OAuGF would lead the audit, with external support as needed.

“Amid these developments, Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2023 election, accused the Bola Tinubu administration of diverting public funds through a secret petrol subsidy regime.

In a statement released by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, Atiku criticized the government’s refusal to disclose the amount spent on subsidies. He argued that the clandestine nature of the subsidy regime was deterring investments in the oil sector.

In a statement released by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, Atiku criticized the government’s refusal to disclose the amount spent on subsidies. He argued that the clandestine nature of the subsidy regime was deterring investments in the oil sector.

“Atiku alleged that despite claims that the subsidy had been eliminated, reports from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, indicated that Nigeria was still paying petrol subsidies. He criticized President Tinubu for policy inconsistencies and lack of transparency, which he argued were dissuading investors and contributing to economic instability”.

HURIWA, in its statement, signed by the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, demanded the immediate constitution of an independent judicial commission to investigate NNPCL’s subsidy claims. The association called for the commission to be composed of credible serving and retired justices, as well as forensic financial analysts. HURIWA emphasized the importance of public and transparent proceedings, suggesting that the commission’s sittings in Abuja will be televised live and completed within two weeks.

The association further elaborated that the objectives of the proposed commission would include verifying the authenticity of NNPCL’s subsidy claims, investigating whether Nigeria is still paying petrol subsidies as alleged by the World Bank, and identifying and prosecuting those responsible for inflating subsidy claims or misappropriating public funds. HURIWA stressed that relevant security and law enforcement agencies should act promptly to retrieve looted funds and ensure accountability.

Additionally, HURIWA urged President Tinubu to promote the current Ministers of State for Petroleum (either oil or gas) to the position of sole Minister for Petroleum, arguing that it is unconstitutional for the President to double as a minister. The association believes that this move would enhance accountability and transparency within the sector.

In conclusion, HURIWA reiterated that its call for an independent judicial commission underscores the urgent need for transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s fuel subsidy regime. “With billions of naira at stake, our demand for a thorough and impartial investigation is a critical step towards restoring public trust and ensuring the responsible management of the nation’s resources. As the government moves forward with its plans for a new audit, the outcome will be closely watched by Nigerians, who are eager to see justice served and economic stability restored.”

A.I

June 11, 2024

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