Politics

Senate accuses NNPC of another illegal withdrawal of $1.15bn from NLNG accounts

Nigeria owes $5.1bn in joint venture cash calls

Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has once again been accused of illegal withdrawals of $1,151,609 billion from the dividends accounts of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG).

The chairman, Senate Committee on Gas, Senator Bassey Akpan, revealed the alleged corruption on Wednesday.

He said that his committee stumbled on the alleged illegal withdrawals by the NNPC through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the course of an ongoing investigation by his panel on the earlier illegal withdrawal of $1.05 billion, also by NNPC.

Recall that the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, had earlier admitted the withdrawal of the $1.05 billion but said it was done on presidential directive.

According to Akpan, the NNPC GMD had explained that the $1.05 billion was withdrawn to bridge the gap of losses being suffered by the corporation on landing cost of imported fuel which is N185 compared to the pump price of N145.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 Senate had two weeks ago mandated the Akpan led committee to probe the $1.05 billion which the NNPC withdrew from the accounts in April this year without authorisation by relevant authorities.

The committee had, therefore, asked the NNPC and the CBN to submit documents relating to the withdrawals made from the NLNG dividends account within the last two years.

It was while the committee was going through the NLNG documents presented to it on Wednesday by the Chief Operating Officer (Finance) at the CBN, Babatunde Adeniran, that it observed series of cash debiting from the account from November 2016 to June this year totalling $2.201billion.

The breakdown of the alleged illegal withdrawals are $86,546,526 million withdrawn from the account on November 22, 2016, allegedly being payment on Paris Club loans to the Nigerian Governors Forum, and the $1.05 billion withdrawn on April 17, 2018, as National Fuel Support Fund.

Others are $ 650 million withdrawn from the account on June 7 this year to offset the Joint Venture Cash Call by the NNPC which ordinarily supposed to be a budget item payment, and $415, 063 million withdrawn from the account also in June without clear explanation on the purpose for which it was meant for.

Following these findings, 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.

Akpan said, “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.”

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Akpan added that a document tagged, “Memo NNPC GMD 49” signed by Maikanti 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,” he said.

Akpan vowed that his committee would carry out a thorough investigation on the illegal withdrawals to put an end to the cycle “because a whopping $5 billion was withdrawn from the same account in 2015 under this same government without any convincing explanations made so far on what the money was used for.”

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Ebere Ndukwu

Ebere is a lover of investigative journalism, always seeking to unearth the hidden.

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