TAPAN condemns the ministers’ “complacent attitude.”
The Tax Payers Association of Nigeria, TAPAN, has accused President Goodluck Jonathan and two of his key ministers of encouraging the monumental corruption currently being experienced in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The TAPAN identified the two ministers as that of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who, the association said, are aiding corruption in the national oil company through their complacent attitude to the several allegations of wrongdoings against its management.
The Chairman Board of Trustees of TAPAN, Valentine Nzekwe, and the President, Phillip Ilukhulo, said this in a joint statement in Abuja on Wednesday.
To ensure transparency and accountability in the operations of the NNPC, TAPAN demanded the amendment of Section 85(2) of the 1999 Constitution.
The provisions of the law empowers the Auditor-General of the Federation, AuGF, or any other official authorised by him, to conduct the audit of the public accounts of the Federation and all offices and courts of the Federation and submit its findings to the National Assembly.
However, the association said the office of the AuGF, which appears handicapped to carry out that function in the NNPC, should provide the corporation and similar bodies with a list of qualified external auditors to choose from, guide them on fees to pay the external auditors, and comment on their accounts and the external auditor’s reports.
The Auditor General of the Federation, Samuel Ukura, said recently that his office does not audit the accounts of the NNPC in line with the provisions of section 85(3)(b) of the Constitution.
Mr. Ukura noted that there were some ethical and professional threats hampering the capability of his office (OAuGF) to carry out the vetting and periodic checks of the accounts of government statutory corporations and commissions, including NNPC Operations.
As a conglomerate, with about 20 sub-organisations, 12 government agencies and about 30 companies, subject to issuance of new licenses, the NNPC is operating in the oil and gas industry in accordance with sections 85(4) of the constitution.
“It is hoped that once the Audit Act is passed into law, these threats shall be mitigated by proper repositioning of the OAuGF to carry out the audit of these Institutions. Consequently, the OAuGF does not audit the accounts of NNPC for now in line with the provisions of section 85(3)(b) of the Constitution,” Mr. Ukura said.
The association said rather than threaten to sack the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, for blowing the whistle on the $48.9 billion (about N8trillion) oil money involving the NNPC, President Jonathan should have applauded him for the courage.
They decried attempts by the finance minister, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to discredit Mr. Sanusi over the issue when she still could not explain satisfactorily to Nigerians how the NNPC, whose revenue payment functions should be under her watch, spent the $10.8 billion allegedly realised from crude oil sales.
“The President is just paying lip service to corruption,” TAPAN noted. “First, it was Stella Oduah and the bullet proof scandal in the aviation ministry, and now no one can explain to Nigerian tax payers how $10.8 billion oil revenue varnished from the NNPC.”
It said when the CBN Governor blew the whistle on the issue, the Finance Minister disputed it, claiming the accounts had been reconciled.
At the end, the association said it was revealed that about $10.8billion (N1.7 trillion) was still missing.
The NNPC said on Monday that the money was not missing.
The Group Managing Director of the corporation, Stanley Yakubu, said about 80 per cent of the money was spent on the controversial fuel subsidy, while the balance was spent on different aspects of its operations.
The TAPAN said instead of President Jonathan to summon the GMD of the NNPC and the petroleum minister, Mrs. Alison-Madueke, to explain the discrepancies in the account, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala simply asked the NNPC to account, as if it was a private company.
While presenting details of the 2014 budget in Abuja on Monday, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala vowed to ensure that the NNPC accounted for the ‘missing’ $10.8 billion in line with the mandate of the ministry to ensure that the maximum amount of revenue from the revenue generating agencies flowed into the Federation Account. She said the Federal Ministry of Finance had discharged its role in the matter creditably by providing the forum for all the parties involved to come together to reconcile their books.
The minister assured that the NNPC explains how it spent the money and return every unspent balance to the national treasury.
“Let me be absolutely clear that the ministry under my stewardship will always stand for accountability by ensuring that monies that belong to the treasury are paid in or at least accounted for,” she said.
But TAPAN said it was not impressed, pointing out that if the statutory role of the minister was to ensure that the maximum amount of revenue flowed into the Federation Account, she failed to discharge her role, by allowing the fraud to escape her eyes till CBN governor brought it to the open.
“So there are tons of cash, billions of dollars being stolen under her watch, and all she says is that NNPC must account. So, the finance ministry has no idea whatsoever how the NNPC spends the nations cash?” TAPAN said.
It urged the National Assembly to look into the statutes, including the constitution that shields the NNPC from public scrutiny; and ensure that the corporation is made to function in Nigeria’s interest.