Nigerians have rejected the highlights of the forensic audit report on the operations of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, released last Thursday by the federal government.
The report presented by the Auditor General of the Federation, AuGF, Samuel Ukura, showed that total revenue generated from crude oil lifting by NNPC on behalf of the Federal Government was $69.34billion (about N11.65trillion) as against $67 billion (N11.26trillion) reported at the end of the Senate probe.
Besides, the report also found out that a total cash of $50.81billion (N8.53trillion) and not $47billion (about N7.90trillion) remitted to the Federation Account from the crude oil lifting for the period under review.
According to the AuGF, based on the information available to the auditing firm, the conclusion from the audit was that NNPC and its upstream industry subsidiary, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, would refund a minimum of $1.48billion (N248.6billion).
Mr. Ukura said his presentation was made at the instance of President Goodluck Jonathan, who requested that only the highlights of the findings should be presented to the public.
However, a cross-section of Nigerians, including civil society groups, have faulted the presentation of only the highlights of the report, saying it amounted to a disservice to democracy, transparency and openness,
Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, that the president asked the AuGF to release only the highlights and not the entire report is suggestive that government has something to hide.
“The whole process was stage-managed,” Mr. Rafsanjani said. “Government hurriedly put the report together. Remember there was so much reluctance to even order the audit till Nigerians pressurized them into it.
“After the audit, the report should have been submitted since September last year, but, they kept it until Nigerians began to demand for it. So, Nigerians are not satisfied with the report. It does not meet the minimum standard for transparency and accountability.”
The Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, CENSOJ, Eze Onyekpere, said Nigerians deserved to be given the details of the findings to enable them make their objective decision on what’s going on.
“There is no reason why the whole report should not be in the public domain,” Mr. Onyekpere said. “The report of the audit should not be given in snippets. Most Nigerians are all reasonable and matured enough to read and draw their independent conclusions.
Though he supported the idea of the Auditor General, as the Chief auditor of the federation” studying the report, Mr. Ukura said the report should equally be available in the public domain for their appraisal.
“There are many Nigerians not in government, who are auditors, who can give government their own independent recommendations.
“The report should published through the website of the Federal Government, Federal Ministries of Finance, Information or Office of Accountant General and Auditor General, so that as the Auditor General is studying the report as a technocrat to make his own recommendations, Nigerian would also study to make their input,” he said.
For the Chief Executive Officer, Global Analytics Consulting Limited, Tope Fasua, the refusal of government to release the full report is a reflection of the culture of disdain for full disclosure in the country.
According to Mr. Fasua, if total government revenue for 2013 budget was N10trillion, and the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, alone accounted for more than 50 per cent, government, over time have has refused to disclose the contributions of other revenue agencies like Nigeria Customs Service, NCS; and Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA,
“That lends credence to what former CBN governor, Charles Soludo, said. It seems the country is making a lot of money than government is willing to let people know,” he said.
“The government cannot be said to be running the country when one cannot give out information. The country cannot be run as a fiefdom. The report was conducted with the people’s commonwealth.”
Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, said it was improper to make only the highlights available to Nigerians, adding that it was left for Nigerians to rise up and take advantage of the Freedom of Information, FOI, law and demand for the release of entire report.
But, Mr. Fasua said Nigerians should not be subjected to the idea of using the, FOI, law to access the report, pointing out that it was totally unacceptable to run the country like a jungle.
The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, the transparency and accountability agency in charge of oil and gas industry operations auditing, was not involved in the process.
Asked whether the non-involvement of NEITI would not affect the integrity of the report, the Director of Communications, NEITI, Ogbonnanya Orji, said other government agencies could conduct independent investigations on any institution.
The audit ordered by the Federal Government April 2014 followed allegations by the former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi, that as much as $49 billion revenue from crude oil liftings between January 2012 and July 2013 was diverted by the NNPC.
Though the figures put forward by the CBN, Finance Ministry and NNPC were reconciled, further reconciliation was required to between the balance of $12 billion by the CBN governor and $10.8billion by the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Mr. Sanusi, who called for a broad based investigations into the controversy, had reviewed his figure to $20 billion when he appeared before the Senate Committee that probed the issues.
When Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, announced the appointment of PriceWaterhouse Coopers, PwC Nigeria, to conduct a detailed investigation into the accounts and activities of NNPC for the period, the auditors were given 16 weeks to complete the assignment and turn in its report.
The report was behind the September 2014 deadline by a few weeks. But, the Federal appeared to have dragged its feet on the decision to make the report public, stirring demands by concerned Nigerians for its release.
Apart from the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Muhammadu Buhari, who made the call on government to publish the report, the former Vice President of the World Bank, Oby Ezekwesili also joined to demand for the report.
The former CBN governor, Chukwuma Soludo, also touched on the issue in his recent article accusing the managers of the Nigerian economy of not accounting for several billions of oil money.