The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Tuesday said the claim by the House of Representatives Committee on Finance that it owes the Federal Government N142.7 billion of unremitted internally generated revenues was incorrect.
The corporation said it viewed the parliament's claim as an attempt to embarrass it irrespective of its alleged willingness to cooperate with it in rectifying the alleged discrepancies in revenue remission to the federation account.
According to the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Andrew Yakubu, Tuesday at a briefing in Abuja, the House Committee had by its actions showed that it seeks to pit the corporation against Nigerians.
Yakubu who spoke through the corporation's General Manager, Media Relations, Omar Farouk, in Abuja, said: "The management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation notes with regret the statements credited to the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, to the effect that the corporation owes the Federal Government the sum of N142.7 billion in unremitted internally generated fund meant to be paid into the Federal Consolidated Account in keeping with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
"I should like to state that we have utmost respect for the National Assembly of which the House of Representatives is an integral part and we show this by the prompt manner we respond to invitations by various committees for briefings even at short notices."
He stated: "It is pertinent to note that we appeared before the House Committee on Finance headed by Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin early last month where we clarified our position on the issues raised by the committee.
At that meeting, it was agreed that the committee would get the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation to raise a team along with some members of the committee within seven days to look at the corporation's books and we promised to cooperate.
"It should be noted that one week after that meeting, no one visited us at the NNPC. This prompted us to write a reminder to the Office of the Accountant General, who then replied to say that a team would come the following week."
Yakubu also said that the committee had in the process failed to live by its words, adding that it deceived it into trusting on its credibility.
"When we came to the House on February 25, we informed the committee that the team did not come and the chairman of the committee got confirmation from the Accountant General's that his team was coming to the NNPC during the week.
"On the day of the visit, we sent the names of the team members to the security gate for clearance, and the members from the AGF's office came in and we began work. A while later, two members and the clerk of the House Committee on Finance arrived at the gate.
"What Hon. Jibrin failed to tell the press was that our security officers had requested that the honourable visitors may enter the premises but that their driver should come out and park their vehicle at the visitors' car park after dropping them off. The honourable members rejected this simple request insisting that they would park their car inside the premises," Yakubu said.
He further explained that the committee members left in anger afterwards.
"A review meeting with the team took place on Thursday, March 7, 2013, where our Account Department gave them all the books they asked for and an office to do their work.
At the end of the day, the team presented their draft observations based on the financial statements of the corporation and its 16 subsidiaries which they reviewed. NNPC accountants duly clarified the observations made by the team and it was resolved that the next meeting would hold after the team had incorporated into its report the financials of NNPC Corporate which the team had curiously left out.
"We should like to state that early yesterday morning, we had called the clerk of the committee to find out if there was really a need to come to the House in view of the fact that the team was still working. The clerk had informed us that it was not necessary for us to come," he added.
NNPC said the committee had presented an incomplete report of its findings to Nigerians.
"Curiously enough, even before the team could conclude their assignment, Jibrin for reasons that we cannot fathom, but certainly calculated to put the corporation in bad light, went to town with news that his committee had uncovered a debt of N142.7 billion that the corporation was owing to the Federal Government.
Ideally, we would not have wanted to take issues with the National Assembly, but given the wide publicity that the allegations have received we owe Nigerians a duty to put things in proper perspectives.
"Our position is that the team had not completed its assignment for reasons we will explain shortly.
Before that however, we should like to emphasize that strictly speaking NNPC cannot be expected to sweep funds into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, since the law specifically says it is surplus that should be so paid.
"In a situation where due to no fault of ours, we operate at a loss, there would not be any surplus to pay. Of course we are all living witnesses to the causes of our operational losses. These include having to buy crude at international rate but sell at regulated prices. "Equally important is our role as product supplier of last resort. This particular role has taken a huge toll on our finances," Yakubu stated.
He further stated that the corporation deserves commendation for its operation irrespective of obvious challenges.
He said: "These notwithstanding, NNPC has continued over the years to provide to the Federation Account about N400 billion monthly from our upstream operations.
"This is no mean feat, given the very difficult terrain in which we have been operating. We believe that we deserve some recognition for this feat.
"We would like to assure all Nigerians that we would continue to strive to live up to our mandate as contained in the Act establishing the corporation."