Nigeria: Govt Appoints Auditors to Probe NNPC's Missing U.S.$20 Billion

Abuja — Federal Government said on Thursday that forensic auditors have been appointed to carry out a detailed investigation into the activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, stated this during a debate at the ongoing World Economic Forum for Africa (WEF) in Abuja.

She explained that an accounting firm - PriceWaterHouse - has been appointed to carry out the exercise.

According to her, the move followed recent allegation by suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Lamido Sanusi, that $20 billion was not remitted to the Federation Account by the NNPC.

But Okonjo-Iweala, speaking at the 24th edition of WEF, said the exercise would be carried out within a period of 16 weeks under the supervision of the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation.

The minister added that the forensic audit would help unravel all the mystery surrounding the alleged unaccounted $20 billion.

Responding to a question by one of the panelists on corruption and transparency, the minister said: "The issue of holding government to account, I don't think Nigerians are laying back. We need that transparency and we welcome it".

"The (suspended) CBN Governor raised issues on unaccounted amount from the federation account. "We at the Ministry of Finance have for two years been reconciling these figures with the NNPC to know what they are supposed to remit to the Federation Account.

"Our feeling is that the only way is to have a forensic audit that would let Nigerians know the issues.

"There is a forensic audit that the government has approved and it is being done by PwC under the supervision of the Auditor-General and they said they need 12 to 16 weeks to do that and all these would be clarified."

On poverty and inclusive growth, Okonjo-Iweala said the nature of economic growth in the continent had not been inclusive enough, adding that more needed to be done to change the quality of economic growth.

Meanwhile, the NNPC has alleged desperate attempt by some nondescript internet fraudsters to desecrate the character and personae of its Group Managing Director, Andrew Yakubu.

The corporation in a statement by its spokesman, Ohi Alegbe, in Abuja explained that "some hackers and internet scam artists had broken into the personal email account of the NNPC GMD early on Wednesday and have been using the account to send all manners of scam letters and phantom contract deals to some highly placed contacts within and outside the oil and gas industry".

Alegbe stated that few days earlier, some "online news sites were intermittently flashing a strange icon which had the photograph of the NNPC GMD juxtaposed with some members of the House of Representatives under the caption 'The blackmailers'.

"While we explore all options to arrest this menace, we wish to advise members of the public to disregard any such seemingly juicy voodoo contract proposals said to be emanating from the email address of Engr. Andrew Yakubu or any other email address. "Anybody who commits to such transaction is doing so at his own risk."

NNPC blamed the strange online icon on the handiwork of some desperate individuals who are bent on tarnishing the image and hard earned reputation of its GMD. It noted that Yakubu is neither a politician nor one whose temperament is given to political chicanery. "Andrew Yakubu is a well- heeled technocrat who in the last three decades has demonstrated an abiding commitment to evolving the NNPC into an efficient National Oil Company with global aspirations. "We call on well meaning members of the public especially the oil and gas stakeholders to disregard the strange icon as it has nothing to do with what the GMD stands for or represents," the statement said.

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