…Reps summon finance minister, others
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, has said that the withdrawal of over $21billion from the dividends account of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) by the NNPC was not illegal.

At an investigative hearing of the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives, Kyari said the withdrawal had been authorised by the federal government, as represented by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the NNPC.

Kyari, who was represented by the Chief Financial Officer of the corporation, Mr Umar Ajiya, explained that the proceeds from the dividends account were the Federal government’s share of revenues from oil shared among the federal and state tiers of the federation.

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“All withdrawals (from NLNG dividends fund) were based on approved mandates of the relevant authorities. As far as NNPC is concerned, investments in NLNG were done on behalf of the federal government. I was the treasurer of NLNG, so I was aware of the federal government’s investment in the project.

“The same matter came up at the Federal Executive Council (FEC), and was referred to a committee headed by the governor of Kaduna State, but the fact is that the federal government, through the NNPC, is the true owner of the investment (the sum withdrawn). It is accrued to the federal government, not the federation account.

“There is no question of illegal withdrawal. Nobody can withdraw from the account illegally. The CBN governor can be invited to attest to that,” Kyari submitted.

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He disclosed that “Though the NNPC sits on the board (of NLNG) on behalf of the federal government, proceeds from the investment are managed and disbursed or dispensed or utilised, based on the instruction of the federal government.

“When I say federal government, I do not mean NNPC. Ordinarily, it is the federal ministry of finance that directs the utilisation. We (NNPC) are merely, the agents of the federal government”.

On the queries from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation on alleged unauthorised deduction of over N1.2trillion in 2014 from proceeds from oil, the NNPC chief finance officer maintained that “the NNPC couldn’t have remitted all its earnings” at the time to the federation account.

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The AuGF also queried the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), but cleared them on the issue of non-remittances for the year in review.

By Chibisi Ohakah, with agency reports

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