11th February, 2014
The claim by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has been diverting money from the Federation Account cannot be without basis. And considering the evasive tactics of the top NNPC officials who should have more facts at their fingertips but have chosen to conceal it, Sanusi may just have established that the NNPC is a cesspool of fraud.
The CBN governor was believed to have goofed by initially accusing the NNPC of huge leakages in the oil revenue some weeks ago. But his submission on 4 February 2014, when he appeared at the Senate’s Investigative Public Hearing, provided detailed evidence that NNPC’s books are not in order. But why is it still difficult for the NNPC to counter Sanusi’s claim by coming out with authentic figures, if they exist?
By stalling proceedings at the Public Hearing, NNPC officials suggested to all that they have been caught napping by the smarter CBN governor. The conduct of the NNPC officials, and their body language, was that of the guilty merely buying time to cook the books for the next session.
If the records of NNPC are without blemish, it could easily have come clean by now. It is difficult for NNPC to disprove the iron-cast evidence brandished by Sanusi at the public hearing to back his claim that an earlier directive had put a stop to subsidy payments on kerosine.
The issue has attracted public attention beyond what can be wished away. The NNPC, through its Group General Manager, Corporate Affairs is now compelled to offer appropriate explanations on the matter, backing the NNPC’s position with facts and figures. NNPC’s prior defence of simply labelling Sanusi a mischievous element will not suffice again at this instance.
By not being on the same page concerning records of importation and government’s true position in terms of subsidy directives, the NNPC and CBN appear to be working at cross-purposes. The absence of sound inter-agency reconciliation smacks of a deliberate attempt to keep Nigerians in the dark, particularly by the NNPC which is always reluctant to show its records to the public. Even as both entities function with a measure of independence, being the chief custodians of Nigeria’s wealth should have fostered a culture of seamless access to actual records between the Petroleum Ministry and the Central Bank, as well as the Finance Ministry.
At this time and age, with ICT advancement, there is no excuse for what is playing out between the establishments. The discordant tunes only point to corruption.
The scandal calls for an urgent audit of NNPC’s database, based on subsidy guidelines. Its opaque dealings and operations have been on for too long, through which its notoriety for lack of transparency is fully established, frustrating the country’s economic growth considerably.
Twenty billion dollars is too much a sum to be missing from the country’s coffers, if Sanusi’s allegations eventually turn out to be true. Culprits must be brought to book if investigation into the matter proves the CBN governor right. All monies siphoned, even if less than this amount, must be recovered.
The National Assembly and the executive should stop playing politics with the Petroleum Industry Bill that should rid the industry of avenues for corruption and theft. Oil subsidy fraud has been so pervasive and several persons have been arrested for collecting billions of naira through subsidy payments without importing any petroleum product under NNPC’s watch. This cannot continue in a nation that claims to be fighting corruption.