The Nigerian government has finally opened up on why it has refused to disclose the full findings of investigations into the alleged missing $20 billion oil money, several months after a forensic examination had been concluded by an independent firm.
The audit report by PriceWaterHouseCoopers on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, accused of diverting the money, has been ready since September 2014, but the government has declined repeated demands to make the document public.
Amid pressure from the public and the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, the government early February issued a “highlight” of the report, with a conclusion that the alleged missing $20 billion, exposed by a former Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi, was a farce.
The “highlight” concluded that less than $2billion was missing.
Ahead of elections in March, the government has come under increased pressure to publish the full report.
On Monday, the presidential candidate of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari, urged President Goodluck Jonathan to release the full report and publish same in national newspapers to allow Nigerians establish how their money was spent.
Civil Society groups and the media have also asked PwC to disclose the full report.
In an interview with the Financial Times of London, published Monday, Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, said the government could not publish the report ahead of elections as only the country’s Auditor General has the powers to do so.
Even more important, the minister said the government was not making the report public to avoid a “rabid opposition”- a reference to the APC – from finding “all sorts of minute detail [in the full report] to create concern”.
President Jonathan had on February 3 received the report of the forensic audit carried out on the accounts of the NNPC from Uyi Akpata, the country senior partner for PriceWaterHouseCoopers.
The presentation came a day after a former Central Bank governor, Charles Soludo, accused the government of mismanaging the economy and refusing to table the audit report for all to see.
Finance ministry officials had long told PREMIUM TIMES that the report was submitted months ago by the audit firm, but was kept away by the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Auditor General of the Federation, Samuel Ukura.
In what appeared a hurried response to Mr. Soludo’s allegations, President Jonathan suspended campaign activities to receive the report in the presence of journalists.
While the President did not give any insight into the details of the report, he assured that the document would be sent to the Auditor General of the Federation and also promised a comprehensive reform of the oil sector.
In her interview with the United Kingdom-based newspaper, Mrs. Alison Madueke insisted that both she and President Goodluck Jonathan were not opposed to the publication of the forensic report.
She however said the report has “vindicated” her.
The controversy over the alleged missing money started September 2013 after Mr. Sanusi sent a memo to President Jonathan, alleging that the NNPC was diverting oil revenues for at least 18 months, amounting to $49.8 billion, about N8 trillion.
Despite data and documentation provided by the CBN governor, the government denied losing any money.
At an investigative hearing by the Senate Finance committee in 2014, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said the un-reconciled amount stood at “only” $10.8 billion.
The government later claimed the $10.8 billion was used for payment of fuel subsidies.
The Senate probe established less than $1 billion was “missing”.
Mr. Sanusi himself later reviewed his figure to $20 billion, shortly before he was fired by the president.
The government pledged that an independent audit by PwC will be ready by May 2014. That promise has yet to be fully kept.