Days after the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was dissolved, the Federal Government, on Monday set up a committee comprising Adams Oshiomhole, Governor of Edo State and labour leader; Abdul Aziz Yari (Zamfara) and Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), a chartered accountant and former executive director of Zenith Bank Plc, to probe alleged misappropriation of funds from the state oil giant and the nation’s Excess Crude Account.
The committee, which was named during the maiden meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) under the current administration, is chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and has Governor Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), who is a quantity surveyor and former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory also as a member.
Specifically, the committee is to probe alleged misappropriation of N3.5 trillion from the NNPC and N2.1 billion from the ECA, and turn in its report at the next meeting of the NEC on July 23.
Addressing newsmen after the meeting Governors Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara); Oshiomhole; Emmanuel and el-Rufai, said the decision to investigate how the monies were spent was taken after the Director in charge of Funds at the Accountant-General’s Office briefed the council on comprehensive management of the Federation Account.
It was noted, for example, that between 2012 and 2015, the NNPC could not account for over N3.5 trillion it raked in as revenue from crude oil sales, while about N2 trillion could not be traced in the Excess Crude Account between November 2014 and now.
According to Oshiomhole: “This is the first time we had a NEC meeting in which under the instruction of the President, the NNPC and the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation were compelled to provide information in black and white on issues as they relate to the total sales of Nigeria’s crude from 2012 to May 2015.
“This has never happened before and for us this is profound. We are talking about transparency, we are talking about change.
“And what we saw from those numbers, I believe that Nigerians are entitled to know, is that whereas the NNPC claimed to have earned N8.1 trillion, what NNPC paid into the Federation Account from 2012 to May 2015 was N4.3 trillion. What it means is that NNPC withheld and spent N3.8 trillion.
“The major revelation here is that for the Federal Government, the states and all the 774 local governments, the amount the NNPC paid into the Federation Account for distribution to these three tiers of government came to N4.3 trillion and NNPC alone took and spent N3.8 trillion.
“This means the cost of running NNPC is much more than the cost of running the Federal Government. That tells you how much is missing, what is mismanaged, what is stolen, there are huge figures.
“The only lawful way decreed by the Nigerian Constitution – not an administrative regulation, or a policy derivable from a circular – is that for example, if NNPC needs to spend money, it is obliged to prepare its budget like every other business enterprise.
“That budget will be scrutinized by the executive and forwarded to the National Assembly and the National Assembly will accordingly appropriate it.
“If the federal government cannot spend without appropriation, why should any agency spend without cooperation. NIMASA for example, whatever they earned they are suppose to pay into Federation Account and also present their budget or their requirement.
“This is what the Constitution provided for; and this is what President Buhari has promised to do that henceforth all monies must go to the Federation Account. What you need you budget for?
“If you were doing that you won’t have a situation where the NNPC alone will spend N3.8 trillion and remit to the federal, states and local governments N4.3 trillion which means NNPC is taking about 47 per cent and that explains all the leakages you are talking about.
“We looked at the numbers for the Excess Crude Account, the last time the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, reported to the NEC and it is in the minutes; she reported by November 2014 that we had $4.1 billion but today the Accountant General Office reported we have $2.0 billion.
“This means the Honourable Minister spent $2.1 billion without authority of the NEC. And that money was not distributed to states, it was not paid to the three tiers of government.
“This is why the NEC has set up a panel to look at what it was spent for, when and by whom; so that Nigerians will have the full picture of all the transactions as regards the much talked about Excess Crude Account.”
Also explaining further, el-Rufai said: “the Excess Crude Account was started by President Olusegun Obasanjo around 2004-2005. I was part of the decision that led to the creation the Excess Crude Account.
“It was administrative arrangement to save for the rainy day. And it was meant to have very clear accountability such that every state and local government, in a particular state knows their balance in the ECA, though you can’t spend it but you know how much of it is yours.
“That was the arrangement; and in those days, before we spend any money from the ECA, the federal and states governments will meet and agree.
“That is how we agreed to build the seven power stations which is NIPP today, it was from Excess Crude Account; and also met and agreed to build the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Rail Line from the Excess Crude Account.
“But what we have seen in the last few months or years is that the ECA was operated unilaterally by the federal government, drawings were made unilaterally without consulting those that actually own the money because the Excess Crude Account is 52 percent owned by the federal government and 48 by the states and local governments,” he added.