This is a story that will not go away. As the Nigerian government battles the Boko Haram in the north and northeastern regions of the country, there is another government battle afoot that is just as important.
This battle places the focus on governance, transparency and accountability, and, even more importantly, how the rest of the world, not only within Africa, on how Nigeria is viewed outside its borders.
20 billion in hard currency is a lot of money, in any national denomination. At the center of the missing money are the unremitted funds by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. It is embarrassing to a national government not only trying to save face, but to the psyche of nation who have become to almost expect wrong-doing on the part of elected officials and policy makers who should have the best interest of the nation at heart.
SENATOR DAVID A. B. MARK,
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA,
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY COMPLEX,
THREE ARMS ZONE,
SENATE'S OUTRAGEOUS RESOLUTION ON THE MISSING $20BILLION
This is to express the outrage and disappointment of Nigerians on the resolutions of the Senate after it considered the report of its Committee on Finance, that was mandated to investigate the alleged $20billion unremitted funds by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), now popularly referred to as the missing $20billion.
Even though you praised the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led committee for filing a 'courageous report', permit me to say that the committee deserves condemnation and severe censure rather than commendation. Granted that the Committee reported that no $49.8billion was missing. Yes. This fact was already in public domain even before the Committee submitted its report on May 28. The amount in contention was $20billion, which the committee through verbosity and rigmarole tried unsuccessfully to sweep under the carpet in order to clear the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and the NNPC.
Sir, recall that during the committee's last public hearing, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and now the Emir of Kano, Mallam Muhammadu Sanusi II, had said: "In summary, it is established that of the $67 billion crude shipped by NNPC between January 2012 and July 2013, $47 billion was remitted to the Federation Account. It is now up to NNPC, given all the issues raised, to produce the proof that the $20billion unremitted either did not belong to the Federation or was legally and constitutionally spent. There is no dispute that $20 billion out of $67 billion has not been paid into any account with the CBN."
In effect, what the committee should have helped resolved is the whereabouts of the $20billion, because it was based on the controversy that $20billion was still outstanding against the NNPC, despite marathon reconciliation sessions by the relevant agencies, that the Federal Government ordered a forensic examination of the books of the NNPC by Price Water House Coopers. The forensic audit is still ongoing. Therefore, the report peddled by the Makarfi Committee and which it successfully got the Senate to rubber stamp was false and calculated to confuse and mislead Nigerians. But Nigerians are no fools!
Note that the point at issue is the $20billion. I make bold to say that the report was deliberately tailored to compromise the findings of the forensic auditors which was set up to find the money. The ploy is that now that the Senate has said that no $49.8billion was missing, the forensic auditors will take a cue from there and report that no $20billion was missing, just like the committee unfortunately took a cue from President Goodluck Jonathan's assertion that no money was missing from the NNPC.
However, despite its spirited attempts to confuse Nigerians with accounting jargons, a few entries in the report of the committee show clearly that billions of dollars either remain unremitted, withheld, waived-off, unaccounted for, overstated or simply spent without appropriation. This calls for severe sanction and legal reprimand against officials responsible for violating the Constitution.
A few examples will suffice here sir:
Money the NNPC was asked to refund = $262million
Money unremitted by the NNPC = $883.965million
Illegal kerosene subsidy for two years = $6.578billion
Illegal subsidy deductions amounting to = $1.2billion
PPMC's staff salaries overstatement = $36.93million
Sharp increase in pipeline surveillance cost
between 2012 and 2013 = $9.02billion
Unbudgeted fuel subsidy in 2012 = $585million
NNPC's illegal expenses = $1.059billion
Royalties and Taxes NPDC was asked to refund = $447.817million
TOTAL = $20.064billion
The above amount is more than $20billion and it represents just a tip of the iceberg. It is in the light of the above that I want to draw your attention to the fact that despite widely circulated misinformation and misinterpretations about the report and the resolutions of the Senate on the unremitted $20billion by the NNPC, the report actually confirmed that over $20billion still remains outstanding against the NNPC.
Permit me to say that the resolutions taken by the Senate on the Makarfi report are totally outrageous. Is it not curious that after detailing all the constitutional breaches by Diezani and the NNPC, the Senate did not call for appropriate legal sanctions against them to serve as a deterrent to others in future? Little wonder that the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Andrew Yakubu has openly pooh-poohed the directive of the Senate that the oil giant should refund a paltry $262million it illegally withheld to the Federation Account.
The argument concerning the unremitted fund by the NNPC is simple. If the money was unremitted, then, where is the money? Is there any difference between unremitted and missing? If the money is unremitted, it means the money is somewhere. Therefore, where is the money? Who is in custody of the money? $20billion is too chunky to be kept in the back pocket of an individual, which means it is being hidden is some secret account. If the money is in an account, what bank and how interest has it yielded in the last two years?
It is rather unfortunate sir, that the resolutions of the Senate on this matter have validated earlier rumours that the red chamber has been compromised to clear Diezani and the NNPC of any wrongdoing? If not, why did the Senate only call for the refund of paltry sums instead of outright prosecution over clear constitutional breaches and gross misconduct by the Minister and NNPC officials? The Senate, through the report, established that money was spent without appropriation by Diezani, yet was shy of invoking the necessary laws and prescribing punitive measures for the brazen impunity. Why did the committee after saying that $883.965million remained unremitted by the NNPC, did not make any consequential resolution that the NNPC should refund the money? Who will account for that amount?
Nigerians hold that even if it was N1.00 that was used without appropriation, it is unconstitutional and therefore actionable. To have established that money was spent without appropriation and yet no sanctions were recommended is like telling a thief to go with his loot after he was caught red handed. This is not good for Nigeria of today and it is certainly not good for Nigeria of tomorrow.
The Senate must be seen as the people's Senate and not the Senate of the Executive. In view of this unholy and ungodly collaboration between the Senate and the Executive, on this issue of missing $20billion in the NNPC, where then is the checks and balances expected of the National Assembly based on the Principle of Separation of Powers? How on earth can a Committee of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria want the Senate to legalize illegality?
Makarfi in his report preposterously recommended that the Senate should call on President Goodluck Jonathan to "prepare and present to the National Assembly, a supplementary budget to cover the sum of N90.693 billion for PMS (fuel) subsidy for 2012 and the sum of N685.919 billion for kerosene subsidy expended without appropriation by the National Assembly." This is not only unconstitutional but an impeachable offence and the world is watching how this matter would be swept under the carpet by the Senate. Let me say that this is what will pitch the people against the 7th Senate and not the issue of fuel subsidy removal that you alluded to during the consideration of the jaundiced report.
I want to call on the Senate under your able leadership to rise and defend Section 80 (4) of the Constitution which explicitly provides that: “No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.”
Therefore, I hold that Diezani and the NNPC have no right whatsoever to arrogate to themselves authority to deduct any amount to "avert energy crisis", be it subsidy, repair of burst pipes or pipeline protection from whatever comes to them as oil revenue until such moneys are paid into the Consolidated Funds of the Federation and such funds appropriated through an Act of parliament and signed into law by Mr. President.
In view of the above, I earnestly urge you to probe the Senate Committee on Finance over this heist and anti-people report of the Senate Committee on Finance and henceforth, ensure that the Senate under your able leadership does not sell Nigeria.
Signed, Comrade Timi Frank
At press time, none of those named in the above note have offered a response, or a rebuttal to the points raised in this letter.