El Rufai, Three Others To Probe How NNPC Blew N3.8tr

How did theNigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) spend  N3.8 trillion in three years?

This is the puzzle a four-man committee has been asked to resolve.

The four “wise men” are: Governors Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna).

Oshiomhole yesterday broke the news to State House correspondents after the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He was accompanied by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari, Kaduna State El-Rufai and Emmanuel.

According to him, from the reports presented to NEC by NNPC and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation on Monday, N8.1 trillion generated from oil sales during the period ought to have been remitted to the Federation account.

Only N4.3 trillion was remitted to the Federation Account by NNPC, Oshiomhole said.

He also disclosed that former Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala spent $2.1 billion from the Excess Crude Account without approval between November last year and May 2015.

His words: “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 they relate to the total sales of Nigeria crude from 2012 to May 2015. This has never happened before and for us this is profound.

“What we saw from those numbers, 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. And what we saw from those numbers – I believe that Nigerians are entitled to know – is that whereas the NNPC claimed to have earned N8.1 trillion, what NNPC paid into the federation acount from 2012 to May 2015 was N4.3 trillion.”

“What it means is that NNPC withheld and spent N3.8 trillion. The major revelation here is that the entire federation — 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.”

He added: “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.

“We need to earn and spend; it is basic law of accounting that even if you run a cigarette shop where you sell Three-Rings, you don’t sell and spend. You sell, take to your bank account, and you budget for your procurement including cost of running your business.

“There is no enterprise manager who goes to the market and sells and just begins to spend, otherwise nobody needs to budget. And because you are running a democracy and you are running three tiers of government,  and the resources involved belong to these three tiers of government, the only lawful way decreed by the constitution, this is not an administrative regulation; it is not a policy derivable from a circular; this is from the express letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution as amended that for example if NNPC needs to spend money, it is obliged to prepare its budget’ like every other business enterprise, that budget will be scrutinised by the executive and forwarded to the National Assembly and the National Assembly will accordingly appropriate it.”

He faulted the NNPC for spending without appropriation.

He said: “If the Federal Government cannot spend without appropriation, why should any agency spend without appropriation? NIMASA, for example, whatever they earned they are supposed to pay into the federation account and also present the budget of their requirement.

“This is what the constitution provides for. And this is what President Buhari has promised to do that henceforth all monies must go to the Federation Account. What you need, you budget for. Nigeria cannot continue with you-earn-the-money-and-spend it. Where is transparency? Where is the role of the National Assembly?”

“So, if you were doing that 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.”

Oshiomhole went on: “Let us also be clear; nobody says that parastatals should not spend money but they must return to budgetting. There is no major player, there is no major registered private company that will spend money without a budget. Even a private company you will have your board of directors looking at your revenue, total sales, your turnover, your personnel cost, running cost, visible and invisible and you have the budget for the year that is how every sensible business runs.

“That is the way it was when President Buhari was Minister of Petroleum, so we are not reinventing the wheel; that is the way it used to be and that is the way the constitution says it should be.”

On the money spent by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala from the Excess Crude Account, Oshiomhole said that the Accountant General’s Office reported to NEC that the balance in the account as at the end of May was $2.1 billion instead of $4.1 billion left in the account in November, 2014.

He said: “We looked at the numbers for the Excess Crude Account, the last time the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for 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 Office reported we have $2.0 billion, which means the Honourable Minister spent $2.1billion without authority of the NEC.

“And 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 on, when and by whom, so that Nigerians will have the full picture of all the transactions as regards the much talked about excess crude.”

Yari said NEC constituted a four-man panel  to examine the accounts.

He said: “The 58th NEC? received the briefing from the director of funds where the state of the economy has been discussed thoroughly. We have gotten the report from the excess crude; what is there and what is not there. And also the Council got the briefing on the unremitted funds by NNPC.

On that line, a four-man committee – Edo, Gombe, Kaduna Akwa Ibom  – was constituted to go through the books of NNPC and Excess Crude as well as the Federation Account.”

“The four-man committee will check the books of NNPC, most especially the issue of excess crude and what is not remitted into the Federation Account.”

“The Federal Government, in conjunction with the CBN, will look inwards to see how to support, how much they will give to states especially in the issue of outstanding salaries owed by the states and even the Federal Government.” he said

El-Rufai disclosed that the Excess Crude Account was started by former President Olusegun Obasanjo around 2004-2005 as an administrative arrangement to save for the rainy day.

He said: “And it was meant to have very clear accountability, such that every state and local government, in a particular state, knows their balance in the Excess Crude Account, though you can’t spend it but you know how much of it is yours. That was the arrangement.

“And in those days, before we spend any money from the Excess Crude Account, the federal and states governments will meet and agree. That is how we agreed to build the seven power stations which is NIPP today; it was from Excess Crude Account. And also met and agreed to build the Lagos – Kano Standard Guage Rail Line from the Excess Crude Account.

“But 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 percent owned by the Federal Government and 48 by the states and Local Governments.

“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 recommendation to council on its future.

“The other thing the committee will do is to look at the operations of the Federation Account, particularly the shortfall and again come back to council with very clear recommendations as to what to do.”

“We have not been given a time-frame but as you can imagine state governments are under pressure. Many of our state governments are unable to pay salaries on time without recourse to borrowing, so this is very important to us. This is an all-governors committee, we wear the shoes we know where it pinches. So, we are are going to do this as quickly as possible.

“The  next meeting of the council is on July 23rd, we hope to complete our work and be in position to report to council on that day. So, within the next one month we will be done by God’s grace,” El-Rufai said.

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