As the controversy between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi rages, a young man with a little knowledge of current affairs asked last week: “Why is this man very worried about crude oil sales by NNPC?” The simple thought that came to mind was that NNPC handles crude oil sales and CBN is supposed to collect the money.
In organisations generally, there is a tendecy for fued between the sales and accounting departments. In a layman’s language, this is the simple reason for the NNPC-CBN clash. But this feud is actually more complicated than that.
The oil sales money dispute can be traced to Sanusi’s revelation that NNPC failed to remit billions of dollars in its possession to the Federation Account, as required by law.
Sanusi wrote a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan in September saying that about $49.8 billion was unremitted to the Federation Account by the NNPC from January 2012 to July 2013.
Following reconciliation meetings between the two sides and the Ministry of Finance, the amount was scaled down to $10.8 billion, though Sanusi told a Senate committee about the same time that the missing money was up to $12 billion.
Last week, Sanusi said at a Senate committee hearing that the unremitted funds were now $20 billion (about N3.25 trillion). Sanusi’s latest figure is fully backed with details to the last dollar. He did so apparently to satify skeptics of his initial allegations.
“When the news of the unremitted figure revealed, there has been an orchestrated campaign aimed at undermining our credibility and misleading Nigerians into believing that all monies due to the Federation Account have been either remitted or adequately accounted for,” he said at the Senate hearing.
“I am, therefore, compelled to present to this committee detailed evidence that NNPC has, in violation of the law and constitution, been diverting money from the Federation Account and involving itself in activities that warrant full investigation for more serious violations of the law.”
NNPC is key in crude oil transactions, especially considering the numerous joint venture agreements Nigeria enters into with international oil companies.
Due to some factors such as weak regulations of the oil sector, government intervention and poor accountability, the corporation is enmeshed in all sorts of allegations of withholding funds.
Record keeping has been a challenge for NNPC for many reasons because the corporation, as the nation’s number one oil company, wears many caps. It supervises, produces, refines, sales, repairs, funds and import fuel for the country.
But, in the actual sense, majority of these tasks are not its core mandate. Yet, the corporation must be responsible for them due to how the system is structured. The day any NNPC managing director begins to think otherwise, his days are numbered in the corporation. The politicians are watching keenly and benefiting from these enormous but economically unhealthy duties performed by the NNPC.
Because of this, it wasn’t a surprise that for almost two months, the Makarfi-led committee could not get detailed transactions of all oil activities and payment records as requested, from the NNPC. The corporation’s management, led by Andrew Yakubu, only sat down at the front row, facing the probe panel without a single paper to present, a situation that goes to Sanusi’s advantage.
When Sanusi brought the issue of $20 billion unremitted fund, last week, NNPC found it hard to know where to start its defense from.
The distortions, quantum and enormity of work the NNPC is saddled with cannot be an excuse for it not to keep its record of oil sales right. There is no doubt that as the government’s banker, the CBN has the right to know about and record every naira that belongs to the government of Nigeria.
Within the short Senate sitting, which lasted for only an hour, Sanusi touched on four key areas which include the kerosene subsidy, which he regarded as a racket, because since the directive by President Umaru Yar’adua eliminating it in 2009, no other directive reversed it.
“As a result of the NNPC continued kerosene importation, the Federation Account loses $100 million (about N16 billion),” he said.
Two, that the major sources of revenue leakage from the system is NNPC’s unverified claims for subsidy and unilateral deductions from the Federation Account.
“If we take the PPPRA template, subsidy/ litre of PMS(Premium Motor Spirit) is about N44. This means that on each vessel of 30,000 metric tonnes, if we assume about 1.136 litres /MT, the subsidy is around N1.5bn. this means that for every $1 billion claimed by NNPC as subsidy deduction, the corporation is claiming to have imported at least 100 vessels of PMS,” he said.
The third issue Sanusi touched was the operation of the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), a production arm of the NNPC. He said the oil monies generated from the operation of the company should also be remitted to the Federation Account.
“This part relates to oil produced from blocks operated under ‘Strategic Alliance Agreements’ with Atlantic Energy and Septa (or Seven Energy). I have given you three legal opinions that unanimously argue that these agreements merely serve to transfer revenue due to the federation to private hands,” he said.
Finally, he said, the crude-for-refined-product swap contracts entered into by Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), another arm of NNPC, is another means of siphoning monies.
Although the NNPC management was not allowed by the committee to react at the sitting due to their failure to submit any written documents as requested, the Group Managing Director Andrew Yakubu spoke to journalists at the end of the session, where he gave his own version of the story.
Yakubu dismissed Sanusi’s allegations, saying the CBN governor was ignorant of oil sector operations.
“Let me make this point clear, CBN is a banking outfit, not a petroleum outfit. It is, therefore, not understandable why they keep making unsubstantiated claims, which a little understanding of the technicalities of the oil industry would have saved them from making,” he said.
Yakubu said the issues raised by Sanusi were not fresh and would be eventually reconciled by the Inter-Agency Committee established to settle the “missing funds” matter.
Even though the NNPC GMD explanation didn’t address the issues raised by Sanusi, Nigerians are waiting to hear what will happen when in three days time, the Senate committee resumes its sitting.
On that day, the committee said every kobo received or spent in all oil transactions within the period under review must be brought to its attention. Till then, we can only wait to see whether Sanusi and the committee will get the record of the crude oil dollars they are asking for or not.
By Hamisu Muhammad