ALL doubts as to whether the allegation of missing $20 billion oil fund may have been rested were on Sunday cleared by the President-elect, Major General MuhammaduBuhari.
The allegation was levelled by the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), now emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi 11. Shortly before the last general elections, the outgoing Federal Government disclosed that a forensic audit report put the sum at $1.48 billion.
One of General Buhari’s closest allies, Dr. KayodeFayemi, had late last week disputed the Federal Government’s figure and given indication that the allegation would be reopened.
The President-elect spoke in the same vein on Sunday.
Buhari, who received a delegation of supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and newly elected officers from Adamawa State at the party’s campaign office in Abuja, declared that the allegation would be fully probed.
He also plans to investigate claims that some persons had started returning looted funds to the treasury, and expressed surprise that rather than probe the allegation, the Goodluck Jonathan administration elected to sack then CBN Governor.
He addressed the audience in Hausa language.
According to him, since Sanusi’s claim was documented, his incoming administration will take a second look at the document when it assumes power on May 29th.
Buhari said, “On the issue of corruption, I heard that some people have started returning money. I will not believe it until I go and see for myself.
Sanusi had in March this year insisted that the issues surrounding the allegedly missing $20bn oil money had not been adequately addressed by the government. He had earlier put the alleged missing fund at $49 billion, while the Minister of Finance, Dr. NgoziOkonjo-Iweala, said the unaccounted-for sum was between $10 billion and $12 billion, adding that the money was for crude oil sales which often captured in government accounts only after payment. She added that the payment system was not irregular.
The Jonathan administration thereafter hired an international forensic audit firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, to audit the account of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. When the audit firm’s report was made public, it was said to have concluded that the NNPC must remit $1.48bn to the Federation Account. On Wednesday last week, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, MrsDiezani Alison-Madueke, told State House reporters that the NNPC had started refunding the $1.48 billion.
However, Sanusi, told Christiane Amanpour of the Cable News Network (CNN) during an interview that the level of corruption in the oil sector was still high.
He said for instance, no one had accounted for the billions of dollars paid in kerosene subsidy which was not approved by the National Assembly.
Sanusi added that Nigeria’s economic crisis caused by the fall in oil prices, the stock market crash and the devaluation of the naira, was due to the mismanagement of oil funds.
He said, “My position in the Central Bank was that there was always this gap of $20bn after reconciliation between what the NNPC exported and what it deposited into the Federation Account. I raised a number of issues that I think have not yet been discussed and addressed sufficiently.
“One of them is the billions of dollars being paid in kerosene subsidies without appropriation by the National Assembly and against a presidential order and we don’t know who authorised those payments and yet no one has owned up to say I authorised the payments, I made a mistake. It must stop. I think those issues need to be addressed and until we address them and begin to close all the loopholes in government revenues, we are going to continue to create opportunity for the destruction of the economy.
“It could be $20bn at the end of the day. After reconciliation it could amount to $14(bn) or $12(bn) and I think these issues reflect unconstitutional and illegal withholding of revenues from the Federation Account.
“The country is paying the price today; oil prices have crashed, the currency has been devalued, the stock market has collapsed, government revenues are in a very bad shape. Whoever wins, whether this government or the opposition, will have to deal with these issues. The petroleum sector is a major drain on the resources of the country and this has to be looked at.”
Last week, Fayemi who is the Director of Policy, Research and Strategy of the APC Presidential Campaign, told Bloomberg that the NNPC would need to refund more than $1.48 billion. Fayemi added that the incoming APC administration would publish the full audit report of the NNPC and expected that the corporation would need to repay the government more than previously recommended.
He said: “I have a figure that’s more than $1.5 billion that’s being talked about. We’ve seen credible information that what PwC says is more than that. We will release the report. We’ll make it available to Nigerians as soon as we have full information on this.”