Buhari Begins Probe Of NNPC, Ex-Ministers

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President Muhammadu Buhari has set in motion his promised anti-corruption fight as he has commenced investigation into the activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and how the Excess Crude Account of the country was handled.

Those who would have questions to answer as the investigations progress include former and top officials of the NNPC, former Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke, and others who have a relationship with the Nigerian oil sector.

For example, on Monday, the Federal Government set up a probe panel into the activities of the NNPC and the Excess Crude Account.

Members of the probe panel include Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State; Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State Governor; Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State Governor; and Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State Governor.

They are to concentrate on NNPC and the ECA between 2012 and May, 2015 and how various amounts of money meant for the three tiers of government were allegedly spent without due process.

The alleged misappropriation of funds in the last administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan was revealed by the National Economic Council (NEC) which was inaugurated on Monday and chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

Apart from accusing Okonjo-Iweala, who was also in charge of the Ministry of Finance of spending $2.1 billion from the Excess Crude Account without appropriation, the NEC also the NNPC of either cornering or spending without permission, a whooping N3.8 trillion out of the N8.1 trillion made between 2012 and 2015.

This means that the NNPC only remitted N4.3 trillion into the federation account in the period.

Oshiomhole, who spoke with journalists after the NEC meeting, said the Office of the Accountant-General reported that the ccountry has $2.0 billion, stressing that this means the Okonjo-Iweala spent $2.1 billion without authority of the NEC and that the money was neither distributed to states nor paid to the three tiers of government.

The Edo Governor said the NNPC and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation were forced to provide information on the total sales of Nigeria’s crude from 2012 to May 2015.

This would now make Nigerians know the actual total sales of crude oil by the country, something that remained a mystery for many years.

"We are talking about transparency; we are talking about change. And what we saw from those numbers, which I believe that Nigerians are entitled to know, is that whereas the NNPC claimed to have earned N8.1tn, what NNPC paid into the Federation Account from 2012 to May 2015 was N4.3tn.

"What it means is that the NNPC withheld and spent N3.8 tn.

"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 tn and the NNPC alone took and spent N3.8tn.

"This means that the cost of running the NNPC is much more than the cost of running the Federal Government. That tells you how much is missing, what is mismanaged and what is stolen. There are huge figures.

"If the Federal Government cannot spend without appropriation, why should any agency spend without appropriation.

"This is what the constitution provided for and this is what President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to do; henceforth all money must go to the Federation Account.

"If you were doing that, you would not have a situation where the NNPC alone will spend N3.8trn and remit to the federal, states and local governments N4.3trn, which means NNPC is taking about 47 per cent and that explains all the leakages you are talking about."

While speaking, El-Rufai explained: that the Excess Crude Account is 52 percent owned by the Federal Government and 48 percent owned by the states and the local governments.

He added: "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.

"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 and we know where they pinch. So we are going to do this as quickly as possible.

"The next meeting of the council is on July 23; we hope to complete our work and be in a position to report to council on that day. So within the next one month, we will be done by God’s grace."

In his explanation, Governor Abdulazeez Yari, said the NEC members had received the report on the Excess Crude Account and the unremitted funds by the NNPC from through the Director of Funds, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. M.K. Dikwa, adding: "on that line, a four-man committee consisting of the governors of Edo, Gombe, Kaduna and Akwa Ibom states was constituted to go through the books of the NNPC and Excess Crude as well as the Federation Account.

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

"The Federal Government, in conjunction with the Central Bank of Nigeria, will look inwards to see how to support and how much they will give to states, especially on the issue of outstanding salaries owed by the states and even the Federal Government."