Serious Tension As Senate Uncovers another Illegal $1.15bn Withdrawal from NLNG Accounts By NNPC
The Senate Committee on Gas on Wednesday said it has uncovered a fresh illegal withdrawal of $1.15 billion from the dividends accounts of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation.
The new revelation is different from the $1.05 billion which the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, had earlier admitted was withdrawn on the presidential directive, a report by Punch notes.
Two weeks ago, PREMIUM TIMES published documents of how the federal government illegally diverted $1.05 billion (N378 billion at N360 to a dollar) to secretly fund subsidy payment on petroleum products.
Documents published by this newspaper show that the fund was sourced at the height of the fuel scarcity crisis between last December and January and was secretly diverted into payments on petrol supply and distribution.
Dividends from the gas firm are meant to be shared by the federal, state and local governments of Nigeria. The funds are supposed to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation rather than spent unilaterally by any tier of government.
PREMIUM TIMES, in the report, confirmed that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government unilaterally — without required consultation with states and the National Assembly– tampered with the NLNG funds. That was also done without appropriation by the National Assembly.
The Senate in a reaction mandated its committee on gas to look into the issue.
On Wednesday, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas, Bassey Akpan, explained that the $1.05 billion was withdrawn to bridge the gap of losses being suffered by the corporation on landing cost of imported fuel which is N185 compared to the pump price of N145.
The same panel was mandated by the Senate, two weeks ago, to probe the $1.05 billion which the NNPC withdrew from the accounts in April this year without authorisation by relevant authorities.
The committee subsequently ordered the NNPC and the CBN to submit documents relating to the withdrawals made from the NLNG dividends account within the last two years.
While going through the NLNG documents presented to it on Wednesday by the Chief Operating Officer (Finance) at the CBN, Babatunde Adeniran, the committee observed a series of cash debited from the account from November 2016 to June this year totalling $2.201 billion.
The breakdown of the withdrawals not supported by required approving documents as observed by the committee are $86.5 million withdrawn from the account on November 22, 2016, allegedly being payment on Paris Club loans to the Nigerian Governors Forum, and the $1.05 billion withdrawn on April 17, 2018, as National Fuel Support Fund.
Others are $650 million withdrawn from the account on June 7 this year to offset the Joint Venture Cash Call by the NNPC which ordinarily supposed to be a budget item payment, and $415, 063 million withdrawn from the account also in June without clear explanation on the purpose for which it was meant for.
Not satisfied with the series of withdrawals, the Senate panel ordered officials of the CBN and the NNPC who represented their bosses on Wednesday to forward to it, latest by Tuesday next week, supporting and approving documents for the withdrawals.
Mr Akpan registered his displeasure at the conduct of the two agencies involved.
“From the available documents before us, apart from the $1.05 billion that we are mandated by the Senate to investigate, we have also discovered that several withdrawals were made from the NLNG dividends account without the required supporting documents to back them.
“This is unacceptable to us. We are also not happy that the GMD of NNPC and CBN Governor are not here personally. We are, therefore, not going to continue with the session today.
“Both the NNPC and the CBN must furnish this committee with other relevant documents on the withdrawals latest by Tuesday next week and the NNPC GMD, the Corporations Group Executive Director, Finance, Isiaka Abdulrasak, and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, must also appear before us.”
Mr Akpan said a document tagged, “Memo NNPC GMD 49” signed by Mr Baru and sent through the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, “had no clear-cut language of a request for approval for the withdrawal of the $1.05 billion but a mere notification”.
“Approval for withdrawal from such fund was supposed to be given by the National Economic Council being an account or dividends owned by the three tiers of government.”