The Federal Government may soon commence the forensic audit of the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, as President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the engagement of reputable international firms to handle the exercise.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, who stated this in Abuja on Wednesday, said this was to reassure Nigerians that government was actually determined to unravel the truth and get to the root of the controversy.
Mr. Abati said that contrary to claims by the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Lamido Sanusi that government was attempting to sweep the allegation of missing oil monies under the carpet, President Goodluck Jonathan was committed to ensuring that the relevant committees of the National Assembly investigated the issues to ensure that the culprits were brought to book.
Mr. Abati was reacting to alleged claims by Mr. Sanusi that his recent suspension from office was an attempt by the Presidency to bury his allegation that huge sums of money due to the Federation Account remained unaccounted for by the NNPC.
The Presidential spokesman noted that contrary to Mr. Sanusi's claim that his threat to force commercial banks to open up their books to unravel the whereabouts of the "missing" funds led to his suspension, the President had confirmed during the last Presidential media chat that the decision was to pave the way for a proper investigation of the allegations against him by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria.
The Council in its report had accused Mr. Sanusi of "financial recklessness, gross misconduct and persistent disregard for laid down rules and regulations in the management of the Central Bank of Nigeria."
"The Presidency wishes to reaffirm that Mallam Sanusi's suspension has absolutely nothing to do with his unproven and inconsistent claim that $49.8 Billion, $12 Billion or $20 Billion is missing from the national treasury," Mr. Abati said.
The Presidential spokesperson criticized Mr. Sanusi for whipping up public sympathy for himself and inciting anger against the Federal Government by deliberately misleading unwary Nigerians and the international community into believing that he is being punished for exposing corruption.
He accused Mr. Sanusi of claiming that the government was involved in a scam to divert huge sums of money from the Federation Account through the misappropriation of kerosene subsidy funds, urging him to rather respond to allegations of official misconduct against him.
Declaring that the allegations were "patently untrue", Mr. Abati accused the CBN governor of inciting Nigerians over his claims that the alleged missing oil monies may have been diverted by government to fund campaigns for next year's general elections.
Condemning Mr. Sanusi for allegedly resorting to "playing politics with serious national issues", Mr. Abati said such claims amounted to cheap blackmail against the government and was clearly made in furtherance of a selfish personal agenda, "most unbecoming of someone who still holds the High Office of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria."
Such claims, he pointed out, were not only mischievous and irresponsible, but also a design to incite other political parties and members of the public against the Federal Government.
The CBN governor had accused the NNPC of failing to account for about $49.8 billion oil revenues, after which the Senate Committee on Finance called for a forensic audit to establish the truth.
The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had also amplified the need for a forensic audit of the Corporation's account to unravel the discrepancies.
Efforts to reconcile the figures between the CBN and the NNPC only ended with a range of more unreconciled figures, from $10.8 billion, $12billion to $20 billion.
However, the delay in appointing the auditing firm to handle the assignment, coupled with President Jonathan's decision to send the CBN governor on suspension, had fuelled speculation that the Presidency was keen on suppressing issues about the missing oil monies.