18 December 2018

Nigeria: Oil Firms Contribute to Nigeria's Economic Problems - Presidential Aide

Some oil companies operating in Nigeria are contributing to the country's economic adversity, chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Okoi Obono-Obla, said on Monday.

Mr Obono-Obla, a presidential aide, made the observation in Abuja during a media briefing on the activities of the panel. He identified one of those multi-national oil companies to include Addax Petroleum Nigeria, who, he said, refused to pay company income tax of over N700 million for about six years.

The chairman also accused ExxonMobil Corporation Nigeria of acquiring an oil bloc since 2009 for about $2.5 billion, and paying only paid $600 million till date.

He said the panel is working with the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) to draft a report which established conclusively that Addax was owing huge tax revenues to the government.

"A lot of oil companies are contributing to the economic adversity of Nigeria by denying Nigeria tax revenues and royalties that would have helped the government develop infrastructures in Nigeria."

Giving an update on the effort of the panel to recover public property, Mr Obono-Obla said so far, about N523.2 million has been recovered, apart from over $1 million and lands valued at N1.5 billion from the Nigerian Export-Import Bank.

He said the panel has the power to charge public officers who use corruption to enrich themselves and refuse to give true information about their assets or abuse their office to acquire assets.

Such persons found guilty of any of the allegations by the court could be jailed 25 years, he said.

The presidential aide said some lawmakers are already being charged for such crimes.

He listed those to include the deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu; former senate president, David Mark; former aviation minister, Stella Oduah; Hope Uzodinma, Peter Nwabuchi, Ambe Bassey, Adeniji Bankole, and Usman Bayero.

Also accused of illegal acquisition of property are Cyril Agbele (the Accountant General of Delta State), former managing director of the Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Robert Onyia for who is accused of mismanagement and Folake Oke of NEXIM bank.

Others charged for different reasons are Amah Kajole of the Nigeria Customs Service; Abubakar Yar'adua of NNPC; and the former spokesperson for the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh.

Some of these officials, who he said resisted investigations, include about 39 names of public officers who are under investigation and submitted to the Nigerian Immigration Service to place them on travel ban.

Also, the management of the National Theater, Iganmu, Lagos were charged to court for abuse of office and embezzlement of about N24 billion recovered from the directors, while the case file has been handed over to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.

He said the Tumsah brothers (Tijani and Ibrahim) were charged with alleged abuse of office, corruption, possession of unaccounted wealth beyond the legitimate earning. He said about 86 brand new cars including 23 which had bullet proof without permit, as well as landed properties located in highbrow areas of the city were recovered.

In collaboration with National Intelligence Agency of Nigeria, Mr Obono-Obla said the panel was also investigating findings of the Panama papers and businessmen who have properties offshore and those who evade tax.

He said the panel is also investigating a petition filed by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, about a bail-out fund of $7 billion by the central bank in 2006 to a commercial bank when Chukwuma Soludo was CBN governor. He said the petitioner alleged that the fund is yet to be recovered, with the CBN saying the money was a "gift" to the commercial bank.

Among those charged to court, he said, included the secretary of the National Film and Video Censor Board, Adebayo William (for alleged theft of government property).

He also spoke about questionable funds found in some accounts.

"In one of the accounts, we found about $3 billion belonging to a purported NNPC account. We also noticed a withdrawal of $20 million on the 29th of June 2015 from one of the accounts. The money was withdrawn by National Security Adviser (NSA) (office of the NSA)," he said.

Mr Obono-Obla applauded persons that have been providing useful lead to his panel.

He urged members of the public to provide useful information that could lead to the recovery of the country's "looted commonwealth from unscrupulous individuals," assuring them of absolute confidentiality and protection.

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