12 February 2014

Nigeria: U.S.$20 Billion Oil Revenue - Act Now, 30 CSOs Tell Jonathan

As the controversy over the alleged missing oil revenue continues to rage, a coalition of 30 civil society organisations (CSOs) including the "Say No Campaign-Nigeria" have called on President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately take appropriate action over the missing $20 billion oil revenue and the continuous stealing of Nigeria's oil and gas money as shown by the myriad of reports.

The development came just as the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has said the poor implementation of its independent audit reports in the oil and gas sector was the greatest challenge that confronts prudent management of the nation's oil revenue.

Addressing a joint press conference organised by the Say No Campaign with the support of 29 CSOs in Abuja, yesterday, the executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, said it was time the president showed genuine concern and anger over the impunity with which public funds were stolen.

He cited revelations made by the various NEITI audit reports -- KPMG report, Aig-Imoukhuede-led Committee report, the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee report on fuel subsidy regime and the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Task Force report, all of which showed massive stealing of oil revenue -- as the reason the president should show genuine anger.

The CSOs' position comes on the heels of the controversy over the alarm raised by the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has failed to remit $20 billion oil revenue to the federation account, a claim the corporation has since dismissed as false.

Rafsanjani said: "The Say No Campaign-Nigeria and its undersigned partners wish to extend this conversation beyond the ongoing probe by the Senate Committee on Finance by placing demand on President Goodluck Jonathan to act in a manner that demonstrates genuine anger for the open stealing of oil and gas money in Nigeria as shown by the myriad of reports on this critical sector of the economy."

Condemning the seeming failure of institutions named in the alleged missing oil revenue to responsibly address the concerns raised, the coalition called on the Senate Committee on Finance currently sitting on the matter to thoroughly investigate the issues and establish the truth about the allegations.

Rafsanjani stressed that beyond the investigation, the Senate Committee should institutionalise interfaced and automated system among revenue-collection agencies of government on how best to deal with challenges of non-remittance of revenue to the federation account.

The group also demanded the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) currently before the National Assembly with a view to achieving sustainable reforms in the oil and gas sector.

Meanwhile, the chairman of NEITI, Ledum Mitee, has stated in Lagos, while declaring open a workshop that marks the commencement of NEITI comprehensive audit of the oil and gas sector for the year 2012, that if NEITI reports are given the attention they deserve confirmation remittances of funds to the federation account will not be a subject of controversy.

Mitee said: "A properly resourced NEITI whose audit recommendations are promptly addressed remains vital not only to our economic wellbeing but enabling citizens derive needed benefits from our extractive resources.

"Granted that by the very nature of our processes these audits are historical and thus unable to clear the current allegations by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), yet we have consistently made the point that with adequate funding and support, we could automate our data collection processes to enable us get real time data which could be resorted to in the event of controversy.

"I shudder to hope that one useful outcome of the current controversy over allegations of unremitted funds would be the realisation of the need by all relevant agencies and institutions to give NEITI and its audit recommendations the deserved seriousness and support."

Giving assurance that the ongoing audit is critical to providing reliable information and data required for the proposed massive reforms, Mitee said the audit circle was coming at a critical time that the nation was embroiled in a very unfortunate allegation of non-remittance of oil revenues to the federation account.

"I find the controversy unfortunate, for there are issues that ordinarily fall under the NEITI statutory mandate that would have been needless and unnecessary had relevant agencies, officials and institutions taken the NEITI audit recommendations more seriously," Mitee said.

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