The withdrawal of over $21 billion from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas dividends account by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation was not illegal, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, has declared.
Kyari spoke on Thursday at an investigative hearing of the House of Representatives.
The GMD, who was represented at the hearing of the Rep. Wole Oke (PDP-Osun)-led Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives by the Chief Financial Officer of the corporation, Umar Ajiya, said NNPC pulled out the sum from the dividends account on the authorisation of the Federal Government as represented by the Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria and the NNPC.
He stressed at the hearing that 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.
Kyari 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State, but the fact is that the Federal Government, through the NNPC, is the true owner of the investment (the sum withdrawn).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 utilised based on the instruction of the the Federal Government.
“When I say Federal Government, I do not mean, NNPC.
“Ordinarily, it’s the Federal Ministry of Finance, that directs the utilisation.
“We (NNPC) are merely the agents of the Federal Government.”
In respect to queries from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation on alleged unauthorised deduction of over N1.2 trillion 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 AuGF also queried the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian Customs Service, but however cleared them on the issue of non-remittances for the year in review.
The House Committee, headed by Rep. Oke, then resolved to summon the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmad; Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele; and Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, to clarify claims by Ajiya on the utilisation of the NLNG fund.
The House Committee on Public Accounts is constitutionally vested with the power to carry our post-mortem (after expenditure) and reviews of public fund spending by agencies of government.
Recall that the the NLNG issue was a subject of resolution by the House, several months ago.