The Senate on Tuesday commenced investigation into alleged abuse of dividends accruing to the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Apart from the $1.05 billion the upper chamber asked its committee on Gas to investigate why NNPC claimed to have used to fund petroleum product subsidy, more startling revelations of massive withdrawals from the NLNG fund were said to have been discovered.
The NLNG fund owned by the three tiers of government is said to have been continually unilaterally operated by the NNPC to off set Federal Government financial obligations in exclusion of the states and local governments.
Findings showed that alleged fresh multiple withdraws from the NLNG account, amounting to $1.151.609 billion, were said to have been uncovered.
The $1.151 billion was said to have been illegally withdrawn by the NNPC.
This is aside the $1.05billion the Group Managing Director of NNPC Maikanti Baru admitted to have withdrawn to fund fuel subsidy under NNPC internal arrangement tagged “Under Recovery.”
The NNPC GMD, told the Senate that $1.05 billion NLNG fund was withdrawn to bridge the gap of losses being suffered by the NNPC on landing cost of imported fuel.
The Senate mandated the Committee on Gas two weeks ago to investigate the $1.05 billion withdrawal.
The Committee Chairman, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan in line with mandate, asked NNPC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to submit documents of withdrawals made from the NLNG dividends account within the last two years.
The committee said that part of the details of the documents submitted to it by the Chief Operating Officer, Finance of the CBN, Babatunde Adeniran, a series of withdrawals were observed.
It was gathered that cash debit in the account between November 2016 to June 2018 amounted to $2.201bn.
The breakdown of the alleged illegal withdrawals as observed by the committee showed that $86,546,526 million was withdrawn from the account on the 22nd of November 2016.
The $86,546,526 was said to have been part payment of the Paris Club loans give to state governors.
The document was also said to have shown that $1.05 billion was withdrawn on the 17th of April 2018 as National Fuel Support Fund.
The sum of $650million was withdrawn from the account on the 7th of June 2018 for off setting of Joint Venture Cash Call by NNPC.
The Joint Venture Cash Call payment with NLNG fund was said to have been ordinarily budget item payment.
Another $415, 063million was said to have been withdrawn from the account in June 2018 without clear explanation about the purpose for withdrawal.
The committee ordered CBN and NNPC to forward to it latest by Tuesday next week, supporting and approval documents for the withdrawals.
Senator Akpan noted that “from the available documents before us, aside the $1.05 billion we are mandated by the Senate to investigate, several withdrawals have also been made from the NLNG dividends account without required supporting documents to back them .
“This is unacceptable to us, the very reason along with the fact that the GMD of NNPC and CBN Governor are not here in persons, we are not going to continue with the session today.
“Therefore on a very serious note, both the NNPC and CBN must furnish this committee with other relevant documents on the withdrawals latest by Tuesday next week and the NNPC GMD, the Corporation’s Group Executive Director (Finance), Isiaka Abdulrasak and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, must appear before us on Thursday next week “.
He noted that letter tendered by NNPC for the withdrawal of the $1.05 billion has no clear cut authorisation from required authorities.
Akpan added that the letter NNPC GMD 49 signed by Baru sent toPresident Muhammadu Buhari through the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, has no clear language of request for approval for withdrawal of the $1.05bn but just notification.
He said, “Even if it has, approval for withdrawal from NLNG fund is supposed to be given by the National Economic Council being an account or dividends owned by the three tiers of government.
“We are surely going to carry out thorough investigation on the illegal withdrawals to put an end to the cycle because a whopping sum of $5bn was also withdrawn from the same account in 2015 without any convincing explanations made so far on what the money was used for. “
By Onyedi Ojiabor, The Nation