Senate uncovers fresh $1.151bn withdrawal from NLNG fund

Senators yesterday began investigation into the alleged abuse of dividends accruing to the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Apart from the $1.05 billion NNPC claimed to have spent on petroleum products subsidy, other massive withdrawals from the NLNG fund were said to have been discovered.

The NLNG fund owned by the three tiers of government is said to have been continually unilaterally operated by the NNPC to offset the Federal Government’s financial obligations in exclusion of the states and local governments.

Fresh multiple withdrawals from the NLNG account, amounting to $1.151.609 billion, were said to have been made by the NNPC.

This is aside the $1.05 billion the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, admitted to have withdrawn to fund fuel subsidy under an NNPC internal arrangement tagged: “Under Recovery”.

The NNPC boss told the Senate that $1.05 billion NLNG fund was withdrawn to bridge the gap of losses being suffered by the NNPC on the landing cost of imported fuel.

The Senate mandated its Committee on Gas two weeks ago to investigate the $1.05 billion withdrawal.

Committee Chairman Senator Bassey Albert Akpan urged the NNPC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to submit documents of withdrawals made from the NLNG dividends account in the last two years.

The committee said that in the documents submitted to it by the CBN Chief Operating Officer (Finance), Babatunde Adeniran, some withdrawals were observed.

Cash debit in the account between November 2016 to June 2018 amounted to $2.201 billion.

The breakdown of the alleged illegal withdrawals as observed by the committee showed that $86,546,526 million was withdrawn from the account on November 22, 2016.

The $86,546,526 was said to have been part payment of the Paris Club loans given to states.

The document was also said to have shown that $1.05 billion was withdrawn on the April 17, this year as National Fuel Support Fund.

The sum of $650 million was withdrawn on June 7 to offset the Joint Venture Cash Call by NNPC.

The Joint Venture Cash Call payment with NLNG fund was said to have been ordinarily a budget item payment.

In June, $415, 063 million was allegedly withdrawn from the account without a clear explanation about the purpose of the withdrawal.

The committee ordered CBN and NNPC to forward to it latest by next Tuesday, supporting and approval documents for the withdrawals.

Akpan said: “From the available documents before us, aside the $1.05 billion we are mandated by the Senate to investigate, several withdrawals have also been made from the NLNG dividends account without required supporting documents to back them.

“This is unacceptable to us, the very reason along with the fact that the GMD of NNPC and CBN governor are not here in person, we are not going to continue with the session today.

“Therefore, on a very serious note, both the NNPC and CBN must furnish this committee with other relevant documents on the withdrawals latest by Tuesday next week and the NNPC GMD, the Corporation’s Group Executive Director (Finance), Isiaka Abdulrasak and CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, must appear before us on Thursday next week “.

He noted that the letter tendered by the NNPC for the withdrawal of the $1.05 billion has no clear cut authorisation from required authorities.

Akpan added that the letter signed by Baru and sent to President Muhammadu Buhari through the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, has no clear language of request for approval for withdrawal of the $1.05 billion but just notification.

He said: “Even if it has, approval for withdrawal from NLNG fund is supposed to be given by the National Economic Council, being an account or dividends owned by the three tiers of government.

“We are surely going to carry out a thorough investigation on the illegal withdrawals to put an end to the cycle because a whopping sum of $5 billion was also withdrawn from the same account in 2015 without any convincing explanations made so far on what the money was used for”.

News Reporter

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