Searchlight for Missing Oil Money

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Alison-Madueke

Federal government commissions PricewaterhouseCoopers, a reputable international audit firm, to undertake a forensic audit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation account in order trace the whereabouts of the alleged missing $20 billion oil money not accounted for

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  May 26, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

AFTER several months of pussy-footing, the federal government has commissioned the auditor-general of the federation and PricewaterhouseCoopers, a reputable international firm, to undertake a forensic audit of the alleged missing $20 billion oil money from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, accounts.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of finance, who announced this at a panel discussion at the just-concluded World Economic Forum on Africa, in Abuja, said the exercise, which started at the end of last month, would be concluded in 16 weeks. According to her, the auditors were to assist in unravelling the mysteries surrounding the unaccounted $20 billion.

“The issue of holding government to account, I don’t think Nigerians are laying back. We need that transparency and we welcome it. The suspended CBN governor raised issues on unaccounted amount from the federation account. We, at the ministry of finance, had for two years, been reconciling these figures with the NNPC to know what they are supposed to remit to the federation account. Our feeling is that the only way out is to have a forensic audit that would let Nigerians know the truth about the issue. There is a forensic audit which the government has approved and it is being done by PwC, under the supervision of the auditor-general of the federation. The auditors said they needed 12 to 16 weeks to do that and all these would be clarified,” she said.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, had alleged that the NNPC had failed to remit $20 billion to government’s coffer.  He had come under attacks following his letter to President Goodluck Jonathan that the sum of $49 billion was not remitted to the federation account by the NNPC. But following the controversy which the letter generated, a committee was set up to reconcile the account.

While Okonjo-Iweala, who is a member of the committee, had stated that the sum of $10.8bn is the amount unaccounted for, Sanusi recanted and said the unremitted fund was $12bn. The governor, however, made another u-turn on the missing oil revenue at the National Assembly investigative committee when he said that the unaccounted revenue by the corporation was $20 billion.

Sanusi
Sanusi

Meanwhile, the presidency on Monday, May 12, asked the suspended governor to provide a clear response to allegations of financial recklessness levelled against him and stop misleading Nigerians and the international community that his suspension was because he alleged that monies were unremitted to the national coffers by the NNPC. Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, while addressing State House correspondents, reiterated that Sanusi’s suspension had nothing to do with his disclosure of alleged shortfalls in remittances by NNPC.

Abati said as a demonstration of government’s transparency, it had ordered a forensic audit of the NNPC to unravel the truth about its remittances. He said Sanusi’s suggestion that the phantom missing funds may have been diverted to fund campaigns for next year’s general elections is mischievous, irresponsible and designed to incite other political parties and members of the public against the federal government.

“We have noted with disappointment, the unrelenting attempt by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, to falsely portray his recent suspension from office as an attempt by the Presidency to bury his allegation that huge sums of money due to the federation account are unaccounted for by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. The Presidency wishes to reaffirm that Mallam Sanusi’s suspension has absolutely nothing to do with his unproven and inconsistent claims that $49.8 billion, $12 billion or $20 billion is missing from the national treasury.

“As was clearly stated in the letter suspending him from office and confirmed by President Goodluck Jonathan in his last presidential media chat, Mallam Sanusi’s suspension was wholly based on the need for him to step aside while the weighty charges of financial recklessness, gross misconduct and persistent disregard for laid-down rules and regulations in the management of the Central Bank made against him by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and others are properly investigated. It is most unfortunate that instead of trying to provide some reasonable response to the clear and unambiguous query of his official conduct as Governor of the Central Bank, Mallam Sanusi has cynically chosen to whip up public sympathy for himself and anger against the Federal Government by deliberately misleading unwary Nigerians and the international community into believing the falsehood that he is being punished for exposing corruption.

“In recent days, the suspended CBN Governor has, following in the footsteps of others who have an axe to grind with the government, taken to spreading his false claims and allegations through gullible foreign media correspondents, telling them, among other things, that his threat to force commercial banks to open up their books to unravel the whereabouts of the ‘missing’ funds whether $49.8 billion, $12 billion or $20 billion, ultimately led to his suspension. He also continues to make the mischievous claim that the government is somehow involved in a scam to divert huge sums of money from the Federation Account through the misappropriation of kerosene subsidy funds. Mallam Sanusi’s allegations are patently untrue. But government is making no effort to bury them as he falsely claims. Relevant committees of the National Assembly are still investigating the claims and the suspended CBN Governor remains free to give evidence before them in support of his allegations,” he said.

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