Abuja — CENTRAL Bank of Nigeria, CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Wednesday, reversed himself from his initial declaration that the sum of $49.8 billion realized from the sales of crude oil between January 2012 and July 2013 and expected to be remitted to the federation account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, was missing.
Instead, he said $12 billion was the amount discovered not to have been remitted to the account within the period just as he regretted that his communication to the president was leaked to the public.
Sanusi, who stated this when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Finance, to give insight into his letter he wrote to the president on the controversial missing money, said the letter did not indicate that the CBN had concluded its investigation on the matter.
But the Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, countered the CBN Governor's position, saying: "I just wanted to add that we found about $10.8 billion. He mentioned $12billion."
Insisting that the letter was meant for the president to launch an investigation into the issue, Sanusi told the committee's chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi: "I repeat, Mr Chairman, that we did not see the letter as a conclusion of our investigation but an invitation to investigate. So, the conclusion that $49.8billion was missing was wrong even though we had the allegation that it was unremitted."
"Now, since then, a lot has happened. We have heard the Minister of Finance, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Central Bank, FIRS, CPR, we have set up technical team and has started a process of reconciliation and there has been a lot of progress in that process.
"I found it very unfortunate it was leaked to the press and the answer is 'yes', the CBN Governor did send that letter with those contents. By way of those contents, the Central Bank and Finance Ministry and the government were very much concerned over the years at the very low rate of accretion to the reserves in spite of very high level of oil prices and in particular, depletion of excess crude account in spite of what seems to be very high level of oil sales.
"Now, in investigation and trying to understand where those leakages were, our attention was drawn to a huge difference between what appeared to be export of crude made by NNPC and amount repatriated into the crude equity account of the federal government.
"The numbers were about $65 billion exported by NNPC and about $15 billion repatriated to Federation Account out of that. Now, in view with our duty as the banker of the government, we had the responsibility of alerting the president and request a thorough investigation of this matter, he said.
He further explained that "the major progress has been the provision of Monetary Policy Committee, PMC, by the MPC documents to show that even though they did ship that amount in question which is a little more $67 billion, about $24billion was actually not their crude but crude shipped on behalf of third parties like oil companies, tax in crude and also for third party financing and so, that already addresses half of the amount."
"So, the second half is the issues around domestic crude lifting of $28billion from which we feel there is a short fall, there is a general consensus among us on this even though the amount has been disputed. For us in Central Bank, there is a shortfall of $12billion", he disclosed.
But even with the amount, he said the CBN was still in the process of reconciling the amount.
"Now, we still are in the process of trying to reconcile that number and we have not even started talking of the sales, the export sales tax, which is about $2billion, which will come after the sales. The Finance Ministry has told us that even before now, there is ongoing negotiation and discretion with NNPC ad-hoc committee and these numbers have always been discussed at the level of Commissions of Finance.
"Since the objective of this committee and for all of us on this side is actually to get to the bottom of it and find out exactly what is the amount unremitted and what is to be done and recommend actions."
He pleaded for time so that the CBN, NNPC and all relevant agencies come up with a collective figure.
"What I would like to do is, given the progress we have made, to request that we be given little more time to continue with this process and come back with the final position that is a common position among us if the committee will so grant us, "he added
He was subsequently granted the request.
Speaking at the event earlier, Senate President, David Mark,noted that the controversial amount was still allegation but stressed that it was a serious one.
"At this point what we have is allegations but it's a serious allegation. When Senator Adetumbi raised the point of order, I did not allow comment on the issue
"It's for us to get facts so that when we come back we can make useful and meaningful contributions. The Senate has no positions on it, nobody knows apart from what was published in the papers, that's why we want the committee to establish the facts, the committee, your body language and utterances must be seen to be totally neutral because we have no facts, we have no position on it, we urge you to observe the facts, "he said.