The Senate public hearing on the controversial $20 billion unremitted fund by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation ended on Thursday, March 6, without any clue about the whereabouts of the money
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Mar. 17, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THERE seems to be no end in sight to the controversy surrounding the purported unremitted oil revenue which has been controversy rocking the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. Samuel Ukura, auditor-general of the federation, told the Senate committee on finance, which is investigating the alleged unremitted $20 billion in Abuja on Thursday, March 6, that his office had no constitutional powers to carry out a forensic audit of the NNPC, or audit the account of any other agency of government.
The lawmakers had, during their last sitting, invited Ukura to intervene in the matter by conducting a forensic audit of the NNPC’s account. But contrary to their expectations, Ukura told the committee that he was constrained by section 85 of the Constitution from auditing the account of any agency of government. He added that by virtue of his position, he was only empowered to make periodic checks on the accounts of the NNPC and other government institutions.
To ensure that there was no clash of interests, the committee also sought to know from Ukura if the periodic checks conducted by his office into the NNPC accounts would not affect the ongoing investigation by the Senate.
“We want you to do it in writing to confirm to us what you are checking in the NNPC accounts. Does it cover what we are looking for? We will only make further directives on this matter when you write a letter to us to tell us whether or not what you are doing covers our own area of investigation,” Ahmed Makarfi, chairman of the committee, said.
Apart from Ukura’s shocking submission, the public hearing which has been ongoing for about six weeks now took a fresh twist on Thursday as officials of the NNPC could not give account of another $2.4 billion which they claimed was spent on third party financing. Sensing that the initial memo to the committee in which $2.4 billion was said to have been spent on third party payments had stirred a fresh controversy, the NNPC officials decided to withdraw the memo in order to “make proper corrections and eliminate he discrepancies in the figures.”
Andrew Yakubu, group managing director of the NNPC, said: “In view of the confusion, there is need to further clarify and align figures. So, we will withdraw the submission and present it again.”
The development forced Makarfi to order the executive of the corporation to go and reconcile its account before appearing before the committee next time.
In her submission, Sarah Alade, acting governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, assured the committee that the apex would ensure that it abides by the dictates of the constitution as regards as what fraction of the revenue generated by the NNPC should be remitted to the federation account.
Makarfi had requested Alade to state a definite percentage of what the NNPC is expected to plough back into the federation account from its profits. “The committee expects the CBN to provide details on the percentage that ought to be paid to the federation account by the NNPC. We should try to be as specific as possible if we are saying something. If you are not in a position to know, then it is wrong to assume,” Makarfi said.
At the end of the deliberations, the committee announced that it had concluded its public hearings. It then directed agencies that still had some documents to submit to it to do so without further delay.
Makarfi said that committee would now commence private sittings to analyse all the documents it had received.