The Nigerian government is deliberately blocking the release of the outcome of investigations into the alleged diversion of $20 billion oil revenues, the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, said Saturday.
The allegation that the huge amount had been stolen was raised in 2013 by a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, who is now the Emir of Kano.
Mr. Sanusi said as much as $49 billion was diverted by state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
He later reviewed the amount to $20 billion, and called for investigations after writing to President Goodluck Jonathan.
A Senate probe into the allegation yielded no result. Mr. Sanusi was later fired by President Jonathan after he was accused of “financial recklessness”.
The government said no money was missing, but promised a forensic investigation of NNPC.
In April, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, announced the appointment of the accounting firm, PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC), to conduct a detailed investigation into the accounts and activities of NNPC.
The minister said the investigation, under the supervision of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, would take about 16 weeks.
That schedule meant at most by September ending, the report should have been ready. A two-month delay meant the report should have been ready by November.
But more than a month later, the government has failed to release the report.
PREMIUM TIMES independently investigated the whereabouts of the report and its contents, several weeks before the statement released by the APC on Saturday.
At each turn, relevant government offices denied having the report despite confirmation by senior officials of the finance ministry to this newspaper that the report had since been submitted by PriceWaterHouseCoopers.
The sources said the document was submitted to the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
Our reporters contacted the offices of the Auditor-General and the Accountant- General repeatedly, pressing for the report, without success.
A spokesperson for the Auditor-General of the Federation, Florence Dibiase, said she was not aware of the report.
Also, Abba Dabo, the Director, Extra Ministerial Department, in the Office of the Auditor general of the Federation, denied knowledge of the report. Mr. Dabo said he should be in charge of such documents if they were available.
He said the role of the auditor-general’s office was in selecting PriceWaterHouseCoopers as the auditing firm, after which the matter reverted to the finance ministry.
Mr. Dabo said only the Auditor General, Samuel Ukura, could speak authoritatively on whether any such report was ready. Mr. Ukura could not be reached.
PREMIUM TIMES also contacted PriceWaterHouseCoopers, where an official said the firm would only be able to comment on a later date.
The APC said the government was deliberately suppressing the report possibly because top government officials were indicted.
”It is now over a month since the deadline for the release of the report expired, and the government has simply kept mum on the report, apparently in an effort to sweep the issue under the carpet, as it has done with all other reports of widespread corruption under the present dispensation,” a statement issued in Ilorin on Saturday by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, said.
”However, Nigerians will not allow this to happen. They will continue to demand that the audit report be made public, in the interest of transparency. We also believe that the Minister of Finance should strive to protect whatever is left of her international reputation by living up to her words that the issue will not be swept under the carpet. It is not only Nigerians but the entire international community who are interested in the outcome of the audit.
”If there is any reason why the report has not been released, the Minister should immediately come out and tell Nigerians. Otherwise, she should release the report today so that Nigerians will know exactly how much of their oil funds is missing and those to be held responsible for the unprecedented heist,” the party said.
APC said it refuses to believe the stories making the rounds to the effect that the FG is deliberately sitting on the report because it (report) has heavily indicted it and some powerful personalities in the Administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
”In announcing the forensic audit of the unaccounted for money, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said the President supported it and asked for it to be done. Now that it has been done, why has the report not been released, even if it implicates the government itself?” the party queried.
It said the urgent release of the report will also end the rumour that the missing money is the source of the huge slush funds being used for President Jonathan’s re-election, as well as the speculation that it was the same missing money that formed the source of the huge funds that were round-tripped to the Jonathan campaign fund during his recent fund raising.
”Overall, a government that went cap in hand to borrow $1 billion to better equip the military in its fight against Boko Haram should not hesitate to get to the root of $20 billion missing oil money. Had that money not indeed been missing as alleged, would the government have needed to borrow $1 billion to pep up the Boko Haram war?
”We are therefore joining the millions of Nigerians who have demanded the urgent release of the audit report. Failure to do so before the end of the year will leave Nigerians with no choice than to conclude that the FG is indeed hiding something about the missing $20 billion, a conclusion that will indeed be more than justified,” APC said.