Welcome to our live blog of Day Two of the investigative hearing by the Senate Committee on Finance into the alleged missing N8 trillion [$20 billion] oil money.
Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says NNPC has supplied documents from the PPPRA(Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency) showing how the initial outstanding $10.8 billion was spent.
The minister however said the finance ministry had no capacity to validate the claims. As such, she said they need an independent forensic team to examine the documents.
On the $20 billion- which includes a $6 billion which CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi, said should have gone to the federation, but the NNPC, through the NPDC, pushed into private pockets- Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said that will require an independent legal opinion to know who owns the money.
Finance committee chairman, Ahmed Makarfi, asked the finance minister: As the custodian of the federal government’s money, if you feel unsatisfied with what NNPC puts forward, and you said will require a forensic team, what stops you from commissioning a forensic team to verify the documents?
The minister said she hasn’t said anything has stopped her ministry from doing so. “This thing is a process,” she said.
The senate committee presses the ministry why there is need for a forensic validation now if the same PPPRA is vested with the responsibility of signing off subsidy payments.
Minister: “These are extraordinary times, otherwise we would not be sitting here. These are not ordinary times.”
The senate committee has tasked the finance ministry to commission a forensic team to examine the PPPRA/NNPC documents within one month in the first instance.
The PPPRA is called upon now to present to the committee the subsidy claims documents it has certified, which the finance minister said requires forensic validation.
The NNPC is called to make presentation. But Mr. Makarfi, the senate finance chair, insists that whatever happens, the PPPRA certification will undergo a forensic evaluation.
CBN governor: Sanusi Lamido, said regardless the explanations from the finance minister, as far as the CBN is concerned, there is an outstanding $20 billion between what NNPC shipped and what it paid to government.
Mr. Sanusi insists the outstanding $6 billion given to the NPDC should have gone to the federal government. He said the CBN has received three legal opinions on that position, and offers to bring in lawyers to defend that claim.
Sanusi: PPPRA says subsidy on kerosene is legal and that certain amount was paid. PPPRA is the agency authorized to determine that. But I have a letter from the PPPRA in 2010 telling me that they do not pay kerosene subsidy. In the end, it is left for the committee to determine whether such letter was later withdrawn. It is left for the committee to decide.
Mr. Sanusi reads a part of the PPPRA letter on stopping kerosene subsidy. The letter was signed by a former Executive Secretary, Abiodun Ibikunle.
Mr. Makarfi said it would be wrong for Mr. Sanusi to delve into the responsibilities of other agencies. He advised the CBN governor to limit himself to what he is legally empowered to do. The comment came in respect of the PPPRA’s decision to pay kerosene subsidy despite a purported presidential directive. Mr. Makarfi said it is for the PPPRA to so decide.
Petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke speaks…
Diezani Alison-Madueke said NNPC stayed action on the presidential directive on kerosene to save Nigerinas the hardship of buying at exorbitant rates.
She said if there must a forensic auditing of the PPPRA documents, then it should go all the way back to 2004 when the entire process started. She said there has been no problem since.
Mr. Makarfi asked petroleum minister if the government will continue with kerosene subsidy. The minister declines response. But Bukola Saraki, a member of the committee, said the senate is concerned about what happened not about the future. He said the question did not arise in the first place.
Ibrahim Gumba(Bauchi state), a member of the senate committee said it was a clear illegality to have continued with the kerosene subsidy which someone must account for.
Diezani Alison-Diezani shakes off responsibility for the kerosene subsidy. She said she was not in office at the time, but was only relating to the committee what happened. However, Mrs. Alison-Madueke said despite the presidential directive, it was no law because the directive was not gazetted.
That claim draws a murmur from the audience here.
NNPC Group Managing Director, Andrew Yakubu, speaks…
“The impression Nigerians have is that $10.8 billion seated in the four towers of the NNPC,” he says referring to the NNPC’s corporate office.
He said to put the records straight, the money is not seated anywhere. He explains the $10.8 billion as having been spent on subsidy, pipeline maintenance and other losses.
“Nigerians believe NNPC is sitting on money. But I want it known that these monies we are taking about are not “realizable flows”- NNPC GMD
Finance minister, Okonjo-Iweala, takes exception to a comment by a senator, Isa Galaudu, that the finance of “this country is messy”
Okonjo-Iweala claims Nigeria has one of the most transparent budget in the world that allows citizens to know how much is spent on “forks and spoons in state house”.
Mr. Galaudu said Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala must take charge and be in control. Ngozi appears emotional, and is telling the senate committee that the finance ministry has been doing its work and that it believes in transparency. “That is why we are seeking an independent forensic team for this to satisfy Nigerians,” she said.
The hearing has ended. The committee will receive a legal opinion on the NPDC $6billion next week while the finance ministry will commission a forensic examination of NNPC/PPPRA claims.