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Senate uncovers fresh $1.15bn illegal withdrawals from NLNG dividends

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Alleges similar withdrawal of $5bn in 2015

By Olugbenga Salami

Senate Committee on Gas on Wednesday discovered another illegal multiple withdrawals of $1.151.609 billion from the dividends accounts of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

This is different from $1.05billion which the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru had earlier told an ad-hoc committee of the Senate was diverted from the NLNG accounts to defray the cost of under-recovery in the importation of fuel into the country.

The Senate Committee on Gas uncovered the fresh illegal withdrawals by NNPC during an ongoing investigation on how and why the corporation was diverting the dividend from the NLNG.

It also alleged that a whopping sum of $5billion was withdrawn from the same account by the corporation in 2015.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, PDP-Akwa Ibom North East in line with mandate given it by the Senate two weeks ago to probe the $1.05billion which the NNPC withdrawn from the account in April this year without authorisation by relevant authorities, ordered NNPC and CBN to submit documents on withdrawals made from the NLNG dividends account within the last two years.

Consequently while scrutinising the NLNG account documents presented to it yesterday particularly by the Chief Operating Officer, COO Finance of the CBN, Mr. Babatunde Adeniran, the committee observed series of cash debiting from the account from November 2016 to June this year totalling $2.201billion .

The breakdown of the withdrawals not supported by required approving documents as observed by the committee are $86.546,526million withdrawn from the account on November 22, 2016 allegedly being payment on Paris Club loans for the state governors, $1.05 billion withdrawn on April 17, 2018 as National Fuel Support Fund.

Others are $650million withdrawn from the account on June 7 this year for offsetting of Joint Venture Cash Call by NNPC which ordinarily supposed to be budget item payment and $415.063million withdrawn from the account also in June without clear explanation on purpose for which it was meant for.

Angered by the illegal withdrawals, the committee chairman and his members ordered officials of the CBN and NNPC, who represented their bosses to forward to them, latest by Tuesday next week, supporting-cum-approving documents for the withdrawals.

Specifically the committee chairman, Bassey Akpan said: “From the available documents before us, aside the $1.05 billion we are mandated by the Senate to investigate several withdrawals have also been made from the NLNG dividends account without required supporting documents to back them.

“This is unacceptable to us, the very reason along with the fact that the GMD of NNPC and CBN Governor are not here in persons, we are not going to continue with the session today.

“Therefore on a very serious note, both the NNPC and CBN must furnish this committee with other relevant documents on the withdrawals latest by Tuesday next week and the NNPC GMD, the Corporations Group Executive Director (Finance), Mr. Isiaka Abdulrasaq and the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, must appear before us on Thursday next week”.

The committee chairman disclosed further in his office that even the approving memo tendered by NNPC for the withdrawal of the $1.05billion being investigated has no clear cut authorisation from required authorities .

According to him, the memo signed by Maikanti Baru sent through the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, has no clear cut language of request for approval for withdrawal of the $1.05billion but just notification .

“Even if it has, approval for withdrawal from such fund supposed to be given by the National Economic Council (NEC) being an account or dividends owned by the three tiers of government.

“We are surely going to carry out thorough investigation on the illegal withdrawals to put an end to the cycle because a whopping sum of $5billion was withdrawn from the same account in 2015 under this same government without any convincing explanations made so far on what the money was used for”, Senator Akpan stressed.

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