Uche Usim, Abuja
In a sustained effort to check graft and plug leakages in government institutions, the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, chaired by Mr Okoi Obono-Obla, visited the management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), where it requested for illumination into perceived dark areas like alleged underpayments, secret accounts and other financial misdeeds.
The Corporation, through its Group Managing Director, Mr Mele Kyari, however, told the visiting investigators that it had nothing to hide as it had to gain a lot by being transparent in all areas of operation
On the issues raised by the Panel on the alleged underpayment of lease renewal fees on Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 67, 68, and 70 by ExxonMobil, Kyari said the company paid $600 million, which was its equity contribution of 40% of the joint venture agreement, after which NNPC was to pay the remaining 60% – an arrangement which became unnecessary as it represented the government.
“Ordinarily, NNPC would have contributed the balance of 60% of the amount, which literally meant government paying monies to itself. There was no need for that,” Kyari said.
On the alleged breach of government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy, the GMD said the NNPC has no secret account, emphasizing that “there is no single account NNPC is operating that is unknown to the Federal Government. Any account(s) outside the TSA platform are partner accounts which we have obtained due approvals from the government.,” he said.
Kyari, who observed that all monies belonging to the Corporation were domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), added that the its account managers remain the CBN and the Accountant General of the Federation.
With regards to the alleged non-remittances of taxes and royalties by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), NNPC’s upstream arm, Kyari stated that there were outstanding payments which arose as a result of the pillage that occurred before 2015.
He, however, assured the Panel that the Buhari administration has made concerted efforts to reconcile every payment due to the Federation on taxes and royalties.
“The only outstanding payment is the $600 million and we have a pre-payment plan with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), such that by mid-2020 we will have money left to be paid,” he assured the investigators.
On alleged non-remittances by some oil companies operating in the country, the NNPC boss said it was the responsibility of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to collect taxes and royalties from oil companies, including those on Joint Venture (JV) and Production Sharing Contract (PSC) arrangement.
Kyari further noted that the NNPC would provide the necessary support to the agencies concerned in that regard though it has no legal obligation to do so, he reasoned.
“As an enabler organization, we will support them because we see our roles beyond our immediate responsibility.”
While affirming the its commitment to transparency and accountability, Kyari defended that the Corporation as one of the most accountable public institutions in the country, saying ‘’this is the only company that publishes its operations and financial reports monthly. I’m not aware of any company that does that in the world.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the Presidential Panel, Mr Okoi Obono-Obla, said the Panel’s visit was to seek synergy with the NNPC towards reforming the country, and particularly clear the air on issues relating to the operations of the Corporation.
He expressed the Panel’s satisfaction with NNPC’s “frank and honest responses on the issues raised, describing the Corporation “as a very important and transparent national institution with a GMD who has a track record of accountability and transparency in his public career.”
“The GMD has a reputation of being an apostle of accountability and transparency. I feel very happy that somebody like him is coming out to clarify the key issues. Nigerians have been misled, it behoves on every organization to tell Nigerians the truth to engender transparency in the entire polity.,” Obono-Obla said.
Kyari, in his closing remarks, said that every member of the NNPC shares the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari that government institutions must be accountable to all Nigerians.
“We know that we will gain more by being more transparent. We have nothing to hide,” Kyari told the Panel