Vanguard (Lagos)

26 February 2014

Nigeria: Missing U.S.$20 Billion - I Want the Whole Truth, Says Okonjo-Iweala

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has demanded to know the whole truth about the alleged missing $20b which the suspended Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said is missing from the federation account.

A statement Wednesday from the finance ministry to the BBC, said the minister, " asked for urgent action with regard to an independent forensic audit of conflicting claims of unaccounted funds made by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamdio Sanusi."

According to the BBC, the direct statement from Dr Okonjo Iweala, said, "My position on this has been clear from the start. The Ministry of Finance's reconciliation showed a shortfall of $10.8bn in NNPC remittances to the Federation account. After this, the conflicting claims continued with new figures such as $20bn being mentioned. So since 13th February I have called for an independent forensic audit. President Goodluck Jonathan indeed announced last night that there will be an investigation into whether there are any funds missing from NNPC. He also indicated that the correct process needs to be followed in this investigation and I understand that the entity that has the proper authority to initiate such an investigation is the Auditor General of the federation.

"I therefore want to see the truth from an investigation under the auspices of the Auditor General, which in my view should be undertaken as a matter of extreme urgency by independent external auditor."

Meanwhile, Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr. Labaran Maku said yesterday that the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi made himself a whistle blower as well as a voodoo statistician feeding the country with unsubstantiated figures of missing funds.

The minister who stated this while fielding questions from newsmen after defending his ministry's 2014 budget proposal at the Senate said that Sanusi as the manager of the nation's monetary policies who advised the president on monetary issues should have not made himself a whistle blower.

Maku said, "But the reality of what has happened is that there are issues with the account of CBN of 2012 as the president explained. The Financial Reporting Council has said that there are issues that should be addressed so the president returned it back to the council and the council again returned it with some of the items with questions.

"CBN is the nerve centre of the nation's financial system. If there are problems with it, it means that it can generate a lot of problems in the banking system and the economy and so the president has been trying to sort this out and between him and the CBN governor there have been communications since April 2013. So, it has nothing to do what my brother Sanusi has said relating to the NNPC. This has been ongoing conversation between them.

"Unfortunately, the CBN governor is also the chairman of the board and he can't sit in a matter he is being investigated for, so, what the president has done as the appointing officer of the CBN was to ask the governor to step aside pending the outcome of the investigating.

"He has not been removed and we don 't know where the uproar is coming from. Are we saying that the queries that were raised relating to the CBN account were false? In the end if he is found not guilty, he still has his tenure to run."

At the budget defence, Senator Domingo Obende, APC, Edo State accused the minister of going on air to announce that the N800m Okpella Water Scheme was completed and commissioned while in actual sense the projected never neared any completion.

But the minister swiftly denied having said so, saying that he never even went to the project site because of time constraint during the good governance tour.

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