ABUJA— A panel of four governors was, yesterday, constituted to probe the affairs of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, following revelations that the corporation withheld N3.8 trillion of the N8.1 trillion generated from oil receipts.
The committee comprising governors of Gombe, Edo, Akwa Ibom and Kaduna states is also to unravel circumstances of the disappearance of another $2.1 billion which was allegedly unilaterally withdrawn by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in the last six months of its tenure.
The revelations came at the end of the inaugural meeting of the new National Economic Council, NEC, in Abuja, yesterday.
Just before the NEC meeting got underway, a senior official of the Goodluck Jonathan administration gave reasons why it passed over an empty treasury to the new government.
Prof. Sylvester Monye, who served as special adviser on monitoring and evaluation to President Jonathan, in an interview, also cautioned the new administration’s officials against sustaining the language of opposition while in office, saying that their continuing propaganda could negatively impact on the sound economic indicators transferred by Dr. Jonathan.
At the inauguration of the NEC, President Buhari cautioned the state governors to shore up their finances towards ensuring that they do not lag behind in their obligations. He also disclosed plans to channel G-7 funding for the rehabilitation of three states ravaged by Boko Haram.
President Buhari also pledged to adhere strictly to constitutional provisions on the maintenance of the Federation Account which stipulates that all funds from revenue generating agencies should be paid into the Federation Account.
Following the inaugural meeting of the NEC, Governor Oshiomhole accompanied by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari; Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel briefed the press.
He disclosed that based on the reports presented by NNPC and officials of the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to the NEC, it was discovered that a total of N3.8 trillion generated from oil revenues in the last three years was withheld by the NNPC.
Besides, he said that the Ministry of Finance unilaterally spent $2.1 billion from the Excess Crude Account without recourse to the governors between last November and May, 2015.
He said: “This is the first time we had a National Economic Council meeting in which under the instructions of the President, NNPC and the Office of the Accountant -General of the Federation were compelled to provide information in black and white on issues as it relates to the total sales of Nigerian crude from 2012 to May 2015. This has never happened before and for us this is profound.
“What we saw from those figures,which I believe Nigerians are entitled to know, is that whereas the NNPC claimed to have earned about N8.1 trillion, what NNPC paid into the Federation Account between 2012 and May, 2015 was N4.3 trillion and NNPC withheld and spent N3.8 trillion. We are talking about transparency, we are talking about change.
“What it means is that NNPC withheld and spent N3.8 trillion. The major revelation here is that the entire federation, that is the Federal Government, the states and all the 774 local governments, the amount the NNPC paid into the federation account for distribution to these three tiers of government came to N4.3 trillion and NNPC alone took and spent N3.8 trillion.
“Which means the cost of running NNPC is much more than the cost of running the Federal Government. That tells you how much is missing, what is mismanaged, what is stolen. These are huge figures.
“So if you were doing the right thning, you won’t have a situation where the NNPC alone will spend N3.8 trillion and remit to the federal, states and local governments N4.3 trillion which means NNPC is taking about 47 per cent and that explains all the leakages you are talking about.”
On the withdrawals from the ECA, he said: “We looked at the figures for the Excess Crude Account, ECA, the last time the Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy, reported to the Council and it is in the minutes. She reported by November 2014, that we had $4.1 billion but today the Accountant-General’s Office reported that we have $2.0 billion, which means the Honourable Minister spent $2.1billion without authority of the NEC.
“That money was not distributed to states, it was not paid to the three tiers of government. This is why the NEC has set up a panel to look at what accrued, what it was spent for, when and by whom, so that Nigerians will have the full picture of all the transactions as regards the much talked about Excess Crude Account.”
Giving the mission of the four-man team to probe the NNPC, he said: “The four-man committee will check the books of NNPC most specially the issue of excess crude and what is not remitted into the Federation Account.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State also speaking at the briefing said: “What we have seen in the last few months or years is that the Excess Crude Account was operated unilaterally by the Federal Government, drawings were made unilaterally without consulting those that actually own the money because the Excess Crude Account is 52 per cent owned by the federal government and 48 per cent by the states and LGAs.
“So the decision of the NEC is to set up this committee of four to look at the operations of the Excess Crude Account and make recommendations to council on its future.”
Earlier while inaugurating the NEC, President Buhari said: “The Federal Government will abide by the provisions of Sections 80 and 162 of the Constitution and ensure more accountability, transparency and integrity in the Distribution of the Federation Account. All revenue generating agencies such as Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria Customs Services (NCS), Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) amongst others shall comply with stipulated Financial Regulations and Administrative Instructions in their remittances into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.”
The President’s assertion could mean the imminent abrogation of the Excess Crude Account, whose operation is currently the subject of litigation.
The President also unfolded plans to attract funding from the G7 countries for the rehabilitation of the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa most affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
“I have directed the frontline states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa to articulate realistic assessments, costs, locations on Local Government by-Local-Government of affected facilities for submission to the President of the G7 for further verification. In addition, the requirements of the military have been prepared by the service chiefs for the consideration of the G7 Nations“, he said.
Why Jonathan left empty treasury
Meanwhile, Prof. Sylvester Monye, a former special adviser to the president on monitoring and evaluation in the Jonathan administration yesterday explained reasons why the new administration received what it described as an empty treasury.
Speaking on a live Channels Television interview monitored in Lagos, Monye said government was a going concern involving receipts and debits with incoming funds regularly being channelled for budgeted purposes.
Noting that it was wrong for officials of the new administration to claim that they met an empty treasury, he urged the officials to empty their utterances of the propaganda they spoke while in the opposition.
“They are creating bigger problems for themselves because, from my own position where I stand, it is not true. It is not the issue of meeting empty treasury. The fundamental issue is, was there supposed to be anything in the treasury?
“That is the fundamental thing. Before we begin to look at empty treasury or not, we need to look at the provisions of the constitution. The constitution says that any money that is earned from oil sales, tax, customs collection must go into the Federation Account and once it gets in there, it must be shared according to the revenue sharing formula.
“How can you be talking of empty treasury when there is a court case saying that that little savings you have must be shared.”
He thus called for the amendment of the constitution to allow for savings from receipts into the Federation Account saying that under the current provisions there was no provision for savings, a development he said made it necessary for the treasury to be empty at the end of every sharing.
He said the Jonathan administration left behind $1.5 billion in the Sovereign Wealth Fund and another $2.09 billion in the Excess Crude Account.