…says money belongs to FG, not states
The withdrawal of over $21 billion from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dividends account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) followed due process. Group Managing Director of NNPC, Malam Mele Kyari, gave the clarification yesterday before the House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee led by Hon. Wole Oke (PDP, Osun). Kyari said NNPC pulled out the sum from the dividends account, on the authorisation of the Federal Government, as represented by the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the NNPC.
The GMD, who was represented by the Chief Financial Officer of the corporation, Mr. Umar Ajiya, explained that proceeds from the Dividends Account were the Federal Government’s share of revenues from oil shared among the federal and state tiers of the Federation.
“All withdrawals (from NLNG dividends fund), were based on approved mandates of the relevant authorities. As far as NNPC is concerned, investments in NLNG were done on behalf of the Federal Government. I was the treasurer of NLNG, so I was aware of the Federal Government’s investment in the project. “The same matter came at the FEC (Federal Executive Council), and was referred to a committee, headed by the Governor of Kaduna State, but the fact is that the Federal Government, through the NNPC, is the true owner of the investment (the sum withdrawn). It is accrued to the Federal Government, not the Federation Account.
“There is no question of illegal withdrawal. Nobody can withdraw from the account, illegally; the CBN governor can be invited to attest to that,” Ajiya submitted. He added that: “Though the NNPC sits on the board (of NLNG) on behalf of the Federal Government, proceeds from the investment are managed and disbursed or dispensed or utilized, based on the instruction of the Federal Government.
“When I say Federal Government, I do not mean NNPC; ordinarily, it’s the Federal Ministry of Finance that directs the utilisation. We (NNPC) are merely the agents of the Federal Government.” In respect to queries from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation on alleged unauthorised deduction of over N1.2 trillion in 2014 from proceeds from oil, the NNPC CFO, maintained that “the NNPC couldn’t have remitted all its earnings” at the time to the federation account.
The AuGF also queried the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) but, however, cleared them on the issue of non-remittances for the year in review. The committee consequently resolved to summon the Minister of Finance and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed; CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, to clarify Ajiya’s claims, on the utilisation of the NLNG fund.