The controversy surrounding the where about of $11.6 billion which represents outstanding total dividends (as cumulated) up to 2012 arising from loans and interest repayments from Federal Government’s investment in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) has again raised serious issues that majorly borders on Nigeria’s unseriousness as a nation. Diezani Alison-Madueke

Is it not mind-blowing that with the current status of Nigeria’s foreign reserve at less than 27 billion US dollars, between NNPC and NLNG, they could sit on 11.6 billion dollars since 2012? We are not yet talking of what we must have made as a country in our investments in the NLNG between the entire 2013 through 2014 up to the first half of this year. What kind of a country is this country?

The NNPC, in a statement by Mr. Ohi Alegbe, Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, stated that “contrary to the impression created by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, that nothing was being done to get the money remitted, the matter has since been referred to the Inter-Ministerial Task Team (IMTT) for reconciliation and resolution.”

His words: “At the last meeting of the IMTT, it was resolved that the Minister of Petroleum, Chairman of NEITI, Executive Secretary of NEITI, and the Group Managing Director of NNPC should meet on the issue of NLNG dividends and report back to the IMTT.

“Unfortunately, that meeting has not held. However, another meeting of the IMTT is coming up next week and the issue will be taken up from there.”

He faulted NEITI’s posture on the issue, stating that as a member of the IMTT, NEITI is aware of the ongoing efforts to reconcile and resolve the issue of NLNG dividend remittance.

The crucial question yet unanswered is: Where is the money now and who owns the interest that has accrued on it? And is it not curious that the IMTT that has not held for years is coming up next week as claimed by the NNPC?

The issue here is that neither NEITI nor NNPC has frankly addressed the matter of the where about of this $11.6 billion (cumulative) NLNG proceeds. Is this money unremitted by the NLNG or it was given to the NNPC but the nation’s apex oil concern failed to remit same into the Federation Account?

The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed had on Tuesday June 9, 2015, accused the NNPC of refusing to remit $11.6 billion to the Federal Government from the NLNG investment.

According to her, “Our 2012 Audit Report discovered that total dividend loans and interest repayment from LNG paid to the NNPC in 2012 was $2.8 billion, however in the course of NEITI’s audit, NNPC was unable to provide any evidence to prove that the funds were remitted to the federation account as required by law. The total amount received by NNPC from LNG under the same circumstances which has not been remitted to the federation account stands at $11.6 billion (cumulative up to 2012)”

She explained that at a time when the new administration is in dire need of funds to tackle complex problems facing the nation, recovery of the funds should be pursued vigorously with all political will and seriousness it deserves

Without mincing words, NEITI itself is another unserious organisation running with the unserious mindset of the Nigerian civil service. How can both NEITI and NNPC be talking about reconciliation months after the final report of the audit was released to the public?

If NEITI could agree to sit down again with NNPC to reconcile the corporation’s account concerning the unremitted $11.6 billion NLNG dividends (cumulative) and other missing monies after the Transparency Initiative had allegedly done a ‘thorough job’ of scrutinising NNPC’s records and even released its audit report covering the period, what does this say about the organisation?

Does it mean NEITI was not sure of the facts and figures it threw at us as findings from its audit? From where did NEITI establish that $11.6 billion NLNG and some other monies are still unremitted by the NNPC?

Was it not these same books they are trying to reconcile that the transparency agency got its facts and figures from? You see the deceit or rather fraud even by the transparency agency! If you are sure you facts and figures were right because you got them from the NNPC or NLNG, why agree again to reconcile? What kind of a country is this?

Is it not curious that NEITI opted to be deaf and dumb on this matter until after May 29 coming of President Buhari? It’s okay to blame Diezani and Jonathan for not allowing government officials operate freely, but is more okay for agencies like NEITI to own-up that they have shamefully failed the essence of their being established in the first instance.

Now NEITI wants Buhari to believe that they are serious with retrieving monies from NNPC and the rest culprits by “creating activity,” as said in Warri grammar The entire muddling of facts and figures as already confirmed by NEITI by agreeing to sit down again with NNPC to do fresh reconciliation, outrightly raises questions of integrity of this NEITI 2012 Audit and the competence of the auditor that handled the 2012 audit exercise. This is an issue for another discuss.

This same reconciliation between NNPC, the Inter-ministerial Task Team and NEITI killed my friend and brother, Mr Tariye Omunguye George. He collapsed inside NNPC during a session of this eternal reconciliation or rather book-cooking in January this year and died three days later in a Ghanaian hospital where he was flown to? Before his mysterious death, he was NEITI’s Director Technical and he patriotically supervised the audit that unraveled this missing $11.6 billion amongst other sleazes in the nation’s oil business. We were in the same class, did our field mapping together as partners and even lived in the same rooms throughout our four years of undergraduate studies at the University of Port Harcourt. What was the doctors’ report? That his heart busted, his veins and arteries collapsed, everything scattered while in reconciliation meeting with NNPC and other gang members and he died.

Meanwhile, he walked into that meeting with his two legs healthy and hearty without even a any sign or complaint of pain. This is a matter for future discuss! This is a tribute to you Tariye my friend and brother and may your patriotic soul rest in perfect peace, Amen! God bless Nigeria!

(IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja and can be reached on: [email protected]

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