Twenty-two withdrawals totalling $3.12 billion were made from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dividends account domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the last three years.
This is according to documents submitted to the Senate Committee on Gas Resources by the CBN in Abuja on Thursday.
Chairman of the committee, Bassey Akpan, read out the figures when officials of the CBN and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) appeared before the committee.
NAN reports that the committee was looking into the 1.05 billion dollars that the NNPC admitted withdrawing from the NLNG dividend account to “augment under-recoveries” in the importation of petrol.
NLNG is a gas firm jointly owned by the federal government and three multinational oil companies namely Shell, Total and Eni.
The NNPC, which represents the government in the gas company, holds 49 per cent of the shares.
Shell owns 25.6 percent, Total 15 percent and Eni 10.4 percent.
The lawmakers are angry that the NNPC acted beyond its powers by unilaterally drawing from the NLNG dividends, without recourse to the National Assembly or other tiers of government.
According to them, dividends from the NLNG are supposed to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, to be shared among the federal, state and local governments.
But the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, told the Senators recently that the corporation acted in line with its establishment act.
According to Mr Baru, Section 7 (4) (b) of NNPC Act empowers the corporation to fund its operations from revenues generated by it.
He said the action was necessitated by the need to sustain the supply of petrol across the country following the withdrawal of independent oil marketers from importation after the stoppage of fuel subsidy in 2016.
At Thursday’s hearing, MR Akpan directed the NNPC, represented by its Chief Financial Officer, Isiaka Abdulrazak, to furnish the committee with all the originating mandates for the 22 withdrawals.
The senator gave the directive after Mr Abdulrazak said upon enquiry from the lawmakers, that the NNPC was the operator of the account.
However, a new twist was added to the matter when Mr Akpan asked the CBN’s Acting Director of Banking Services, Christopher Olomukoro, whether authorisation for withdrawal from the account came from any other entity or government official other than the NNPC.
Mr Olumokoro answered in the affirmative, saying the CBN “also accepts withdrawal mandates from the Minister of Finance”.
“So, who runs the account? Is it a joint account between the NNPC and the Federal Ministry of Finance?” Mr Akpan asked.
The CBN director answered: “No, but the issue here is that the Honourable Minister of Finance also has the power to submit mandates in respect of that account.”
At this point, Mr Akpan said out of the 22 withdrawals, the CBN submitted mandates for only seven, which he said came from the NNPC.
He wondered why the mandates from the minister of finance were not included.
This elicited reactions from members of the committee, who requested for all the 22 withdrawal mandates in custody of the CBN from both the minister and NNPC.
They also directed the NNPC to provide the originating mandates and letters of approvals for its withdrawals from the account.
The committee gave the agencies till November 30 to provide the documents and adjourned sitting till December 4.