Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The Senate on Tuesday began a probe into the alleged non-remittance of about $5.334bn to the Federal Government treasury by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company since 2013.
The sum, it said, included proceeds of the crude oil lifted from divested oil wells OML 61, 62 and 63 worth over $3.487bn, and another lifted by the NPDC from divested oil wells OML 65, 111 and 119 worth $1.847bn “out of which it paid $100m only.”
The upper chamber of the National Assembly took the decision based on a motion by Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) titled, ‘‘The unlawful and wilful misappropriation and criminal withholding of public revenue by the NNPC and NPDC from 2013 to date’’.
Melaye said, “Despite the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; despite the fact that we are in a period of change; despite the fact that anti-corruption is the major agenda of this administration, some few Nigerians are busy robbing the masses of this country under the watchful eyes of the great anti-corruption crusader.
“Over $400m has not been remitted to government coffers. Today, $3.4bn has not been remitted to our treasury. If we have this money in government treasury, it would have helped to reduce the pressure on the naira and improve our foreign reserves.”
As part of the prayers of the motion, the Senate resolved to “mandate the Committees of Petroleum (Upstream) and Finance to investigate holistically the level of corruption in the corporation, with a view to recovering every fund due to the Federation Account as a result.”
The lawmakers also “mandate the NNPC and the NPDC to immediately remit money obtained on behalf of the Federal Government to the Federation Account upon lifting and the Group Managing Director ensure compliance with this directive with immediate effect.”
In addition, the Senate resolved to “direct the NNPC to, as a matter of urgency, forward to the National Assembly its yearly estimate for repairs and pipeline operations and maintenance for appropriation.”
Melaye, while moving the motion, alleged that the NNPC had spent over N14bn on the maintenance of oil pipelines, stating that the corporation spent N14.2bn on maintenance in June, 2016 alone.
He said the Senate noted “with serious concern the unlawful and wilful misappropriation and criminal withholding of public revenue by NNPC and NPDC.”
He said, “The Senate is deeply concerned that since 2013 to date, NPDC has continued to lift crude oil from divested oil wells OML 61, 62 and 63 worth over $3.487bn without remittance of any nature to the Federation Account.
“It further notes that the same NPDC has been lifting from divested oil wells OML 65, 111 and 119 to the tune of $1.847bn, out of which it paid $100m only.
“The Senate is worried that while this practice may have started before the present administration, it has continued under the watch of the new administration without abating; so much so that in this year alone, between January and August, a total of $344.442m worth of oil has been lifted by NPDC without remittance to the Federation Account and not paying royalties and other taxes on these lifting.”
President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, who presided over the plenary, stated that Nigeria must put an end to “this type of level of misappropriation and recklessness.”
Saraki said, “The frightening part about it is not just OML 61, 62 and 63, OML 65, 111, 119 too. Lastly and secondly, even more worrisome, they (NNPC and NPDC) did it up to the last administration and now they are carrying out the same practice again.
“We must put an end to this and we cannot continue with this issue where some people are sabotaging the efforts to fight corruption.
“The question to ask ourselves is: where is the Minister of Petroleum Resources, the GMD (of NNPC), the auditor general, the Minister of Finance, Governor of the Central Bank (of Nigeria) and all the anti-corruption agencies to allow this kind of thing to continue.
“So, those of you who are members of this committee, this is a call to duty. The reputation of this Senate is before you. You must make sacrifice over this holiday and by the time we resume on January 9, truly, we must have a report telling us where these monies are and putting an end to it.
“This practice must stop immediately, pending whatever the outcome of this investigation. This committee should report and ensure that this report is laid by January 9, 2017.’’ (Punchng.com)