By Tony Akowe, Abuja
The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Thursday dismissed allegations of illegally withdrawing about $21 billion from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG dividends account.
Group Managing Director of the Corporation, Mele Kyari told the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts that the money was withdrawn from the account with the approval of the Federal Government acting through the Minister of Finance.
Represented by the Chief Finance Officer of the Corporation, Umar Ajiya, the NNPC boss also said that Investment in the corporation belong to the Federal Government alone and not to the three tier of Government.
He said the NNPC pulled out the sum from the dividends account, on the authorization of the Federal Government, as represented by the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and the NNPC.
He said 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.
He said “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State, but the fact is that, the Federal Government, through the NNPC, is the true owner of the investment (the sum withdrawn).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.
“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 utilization. We (NNPC) are merely, the agents of the Federal government.”
Responding to queries from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation on alleged unauthorized deduction of over N1.2trillion 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 House Committee on Public Account however resolved to summon the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmad, Governor of CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, to clarify claims by the Mr. Ajiya, on the utilization of the NLNG fund.
Recall that the NLNG issue was a subject of resolution by the House, several months ago.