The revelation by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, in a letter issued by him (not signed) that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has failed to remit $49.8 billion, being proceeds from crude sales between January 2012 and July 2013 to the Federation Account, has elicited widespread outrage.
The said amount represents 76 per cent of the value of crude oil lifting during the period, in which the NNPC was said to have remitted $15.5bn, representing a paltry 24 per cent of the total value of $65.3bn. Sanusi had disclosed this in a letter written to President Goodluck Jonathan.
But, the NNPC has refuted the report credited to Sanusi, saying that the allegation was borne out of misunderstanding of the workings of the oil and gas industry and the modality for remitting crude oil sales revenue into the Federation Account.
Reacting to the development, the All Progressives Congress (APC) described the non-remittance of the funds to the nation's coffers as the stocking of a war chest towards the 2015 polls.
In a telephone chat with LEADERSHIP in Lagos yesterday, interim national publicity secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, urged President Goodluck Jonathan to speak up on the issue, if he is not to be held culpable.
Mohammed also stated that the current situation was in keeping with the level of corruption in the country, saying that the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration had shown its unwillingness to curb corruption in the country.
"It is a deliberate scheme by the government and it is one the plans aimed at 2015. It is a war chest and if it is not, the president must speak up if the government is not culpable. Never in the history of the country has the level of corruption been so high," Mohammed said.
It's time to demand accountability - Aturu
Lagos-based human rights activist and legal practitioner, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, has commended the action of the CBN governor for raising the alarm. He, however, said it should have come much earlier, just as he reasoned that the action was a mere confirmation of what is known to the public regarding the way the country is being managed.
Aturu, who spoke to LEADERSHIP last night in Lagos, said Nigerians are waiting for the action of the president on the shameful issue, saying that Nigerians must rise to demand for accountability in the manner in which the country is being managed.
He said, "To me, the situation will ultimately make Nigerians demand for more accountability in the way and manner that they are being governed. This is a test case for all of us."
Benefiting interests frustrating PIB passage - EITI
Also reacting to the development, Nigeria's representative on the global Board of the Extractive Industries Transparency initiative (EITI), Faith Nwadishi said, "These are issues the Petroleum Industry Bill is meant to address. But the people who are benefiting from NNPC as it is do not want the PIB to be passed. The development is a reflection of the findings of various oil and gas sector audits by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which shows that the NNPC reports to no one, but itself."
Nwadishi, who is also the national coordinator, Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Nigeria, said the practice had been going on for years and praised the CBN governor for taking the bold step to write the presidency. He said, "The citizens should take the report and demand accountability. The NNPC needs to serve national interest. The fight against corruption is the people's fight, because the National Assembly has done nothing about all the other reports indicting the NNPC of corruption. They instituted a probe but nothing has come out of the probe."
President has shown no will to fight corruption - Agbaje
In his reaction, human rights lawyer, Fred Agbaje said, "The bombshell coming from the CBN and the speaker of the House of Representatives AminuTambuwal in respect of the body language of the president to the fight against corruption is true and correct. The president has never shown any willpower to fight corruption. In fact, corruption is fighting this government. The media team of the president was quick to react to the statement made by the speaker, but is this letter from the CBN not confirming what Tambuwal has said? Will they also accuse the CBN governor of being partisan?"
Find missing money, SERAP tells presidency
Similarly, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to urgently query the NNPC over its allegations. The organisation also asked the president to "publicly announce to Nigerians what he is doing to find the missing funds and to bring suspected perpetrators to justice," adding that "this case provides the president a rare opportunity to show that he is truly committed to the oft-repeated fight against corruption."
"It is certainly not enough for this government to simply praise Nelson Mandela. If the president is truly inspired by Mandela, he needs to begin to show the leadership and steadfast commitment required to end corruption," SERAP added.
Revelations calls for sleepless nights - CLO
Also in his reaction, the executive director, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) Comrade Buchi Ezike, noted that in a society where transparency, accountability and issues of graft are taken seriously, this would be ear-tingling news that should cause the president and those in government sleepless nights.
He, however, said, "We in CLO do not expect that anything good will come out of the CBN allegation. All of them are involved in the dirty deals of plundering and squandering our country and so nobody prosecutes him or herself."
Various NEITI oil and gas industry reports have indicted the NNPC over discrepancies in remittance of crude oil sales and lifting. For example, the 2009-2011 report alone revealed that the federation lost about N2.153trillion to unwholesome activities by the NNPC.
Allegation baseless - NNPC
But the NNPC has debunked the claim of Sanusi in a statement issued yesterday by the general manager, media relations department of the NNPC, Dr. Omar Farouk Ibrahim. Ibrahim said, "For the avoidance of doubt, it needs to be stated that the figure of 594.024 million barrels of crude oil given by the CBN as the total crude oil lifting for the period of January 2012 to July 2013 does not represent the correct picture of crude oil lifting for the period. From our records, the correct figure is 618.55m barrels. This shows that the CBN understated the actual crude lifting by 4.13%."
He explained that revenue from crude oil lifting is in various categories, namely Equity Crude, Petroleum Profit Tax, Royalty, Third Party Financing and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company.
"Revenues from each of these categories are statutorily collected by different agencies of the government. The NNPC collects only one of the aforementioned categories, namely Equity Crude. Petroleum Profit Tax is collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service; Royalty goes to the Department of Petroleum Resources; Third Party financing goes for Research, Development, Programme and Satellite fields Development, while NPDC goes to NPDC for upstream development. While NNPC pays proceeds from Equity crude directly to the Federation Account with the CBN, the FIRS and DPR pay PPT and Royalty respectively into the Federation Account with the CBN. The sum total of these proceeds makes up the alleged unremitted revenues," he said.
He added that, "The 24% of total crude oil revenue receipts which the CBN governor is reported to have acknowledged that NNPC remitted represents the proceeds from the equity lifting, which NNPC is directly responsible for. The alleged unremitted 76% was paid to the agencies that are statutorily empowered to receive them for onward remittance into the Federation Account."
Ibrahim further stressed the need for top government functionaries to seek understanding of issues that are not clear to them from relevant agencies, rather than go public with misleading information that is capable of creating public disaffection.