Nigeria’s state-own oil firm, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has admitted withdrawing $21 billion from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dividends accounts, but this was authorised by President Mohammadu Buhari.
According to the NNPC Chief Finance Officer Umar Ajiya, the money was withdrawn from the account with the approval of the Federal Government acting through the Minister of Finance.
Ajiya, who spoke before the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts on Thursday said the dividend paid by the NLNG belongs to the federal government and not the federation accounts as being misconstrued by the public.
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.
“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State, but the fact is that the Federal Government, through the NNPC, is the true owner of the investment (the sum withdrawn).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,” the NNPC CFO said.
Responding to queries from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation on the alleged unauthorized 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 House Committee on Public Account however resolved to summon the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmad, Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele and the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, to clarify claims by Ajiya, on the utilization of the NLNG fund.