Oil Revenue Controversy – Falana Demands Federation Accounts Audit

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Femi FalanaA human rights activist, Femi Falana, has challenged the Auditor-General of the Federation, AGF, to immediately take steps to conduct a comprehensive audit of the Federation Account.

Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said if in two weeks the AGF fails to heed to his demand, he would have no option than to proceed to the Federal High Court to seek an order of mandamus to compel him to carry out his lawful responsibility.

The former President of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, NADL, said the demand followed the spate of conflicting claims between the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN governor, Lamido

Sanusi, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, on the alleged missing $49.8 billion (about N82 trillion) oil revenue in the Federation Account.

He said initially when Mr. Sanusi made the allegation that the NNPC failed to remit the money, the agency denied, accusing him of ignorance about the workings of the oil industry and an attempt to politicize the issue to ridicule the corporation.

The one-time Chairman of the West African Bar Association, WABA, however, noted that after the reconciliation of the their claims to determine the actual state of the Federation Account, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala had claimed the missing amount was about $10.8 billion, as against Mr. Sanusi’s $12 billion.

Following public outcry for the NNPC to account for the $10.8 billion, the CBN governor said the national oil company claimed that the money was spent on pipeline repairs and fuel subsidy.

Though Mr. Sanusi now claims the money illegally withheld from the Federation Account by the NNPC was $20 billion, the Group Managing Director, GMD NNPC, Andrew Yakubu, dismissed such claims saying the CBN was never a professional auditor.

He recalled that during the January 2012 anti-fuel hike, the CBN had claimed that about N1.3 trillion was paid out to fuel importers from the Subsidy Account in 2011, while one of the CBN deputy governors told the House of Representatives probing the fuel subsidy scandal said that the amount was N1.6billion.

“At the end of the public inquiry, the committee confirmed that the actual amount paid out by the CBN was over N2.3billlion, despite the appropriation of only N245 billion in the 2011 budget.

In the light of the controversy, Mr. Falana said it is obvious that the CBN, which keeps the Federation Account, cannot produce a reliable statement of the Account into which all revenues collected by the Federal Government was paid by the NNPC and other agencies of government.

Mr. Falana described the NNPC’s accounts as being shrouded in secrecy, blaming members of the National Assembly for abdicating their responsibility of monitoring the activities of the various revenue agencies.

Since the restoration of civil rule in May 1999, both chambers of the National Assembly have subjected the NNPC to several investigations of its finances. They have also embarked on oversight functions to scrutinize the financial records without any positive result.

The lawyer said he wondered why the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, which could have helped end the regime of secrecy in NNPC affairs, has not been passed into law. He also said that neither the Finance Minister nor the Finance committee of the Senate was empowered to reconcile conflicting figures in government finances.

In line with the provisions of Section 85 of the Constitution, which mandates the Auditor-General to submit its report to the National Assembly, Mr. Falana urged all the parties concerned to ensure that the audit was conducted without delay.

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