The Senate has endorsed the report of its committee on finance that $49.8 billion was not missing from the federation account as alleged by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Aug. 4, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE intrigues over the alleged missing $49.8 billion oil money from the federation account appear to over. The Senate on Thursday, July 10, ratified the report of its committee on Finance, which probed allegations by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, of the missing money. According to the report, the allegation by the former CBN governor was unfounded and that the said money was not missing from government’s coffers.
In the report, the Senate said the former CBN governor was hasty and got his figures wrong. It declared that the committee could not see how the figure of 49.8 billion was arrived at by Sanusi in the first instance It added that the former CBN governor at the first hearing submitted $12 billion as the amount to be reconciled and changed his position to $20 billion at the subsequent hearing.
While adopting the Ahmed Makarfi-led committee report, the senators also approved that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, should refund the sum of $218,069,354.32, being the balance of the gross lifting under the third party financing to the federation account. The amount includes $218 million; another $262 million being expenses the corporation could not satisfactorily defend in respect of Holding Strategic Stock Reserve; Pipeline Maintenance and Management Cost; and Capital Expenditure; and $447 million being the balance of Royalty and Petroleum Profit Tax to the federation account.
The lawmakers also directed that regular inter-agency reconciliation between institutions, such as the ministry of finance, NNPC, CBN and the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, should hold on a regular basis. According to the Senate, such regular reconciliatory meetings would prevent any leakage in the federation’s revenue and also prevent the state of distrust that led to the investigation. The Senate rejected the proposal which indicated that the NNPC should present the subsidy deductions amounting to N813.8 billion for appropriation to it.
The Senate also advised the NNPC to stop making deductions from the federation account without appropriation by the National Assembly. The senators said the NNPC must stick to international best practises in keeping records, while also insisting that the corporation should desist from controlling the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, so as not to undermine its separate legal status and make accountability more difficult.
David Mark, Senate President, said that the committee had presented a courageous report, based on facts and figures. He said Nigerians should be wary of those who bandy figures about without proof, adding that the report before the Senate was laced with facts. “At the inception of the seventh Senate, I did say emphatically that there is no issue in this country that we cannot discuss as respected and distinguished senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If we have the courage to set up a committee, nothing will stop us from taking the report of that committee and it will not be swept under the carpet in this Red Chamber,” he said.
Claims of the missing money became public in a leaked memo from Sanusi to President Goodluck Jonathan in September 2013. In the letter, the former CBN boss said as much as $49.8 billion oil receipts was missing. He later admitted that the figure was less, but said it would not be lower than $20 billion. The federal government denied the allegation, even before an investigation. The government later admitted it could not account for $10.8 billion, but a meeting between the CBN, finance ministry, petroleum ministry and other officials, failed to reconcile the figure.
Sanusi was later removed from office by President Jonathan in February. The president accused him of financial recklessness, a move many believed was to punish him for exposing corruption in government. Under mounting public pressure, the government announced the commissioning of an independent forensic audit of the NNPC.
Despite mandating audit firm, PriceWatersCooper, to carry out the probe, the government has insisted that no funds were missing. During his media chat in May, President Jonathan said if such an amount were missing, the United States of America would have known. The outcome of the audit is still being expected, while the Senate has accepted the conclusions of its finance committee that Sanusi’s claims were misleading.