The upper legislative chamber, the Senate is to probe the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) over its financial dealings, even as no official of the NNPC showed up at scheduled Tuesday meeting.
Sources told our correspondent that the meeting originally scheduled for 2:45p.m. in the Senate had no officials from the NNPC in attendance “and there was no correspondence either.”
Sources close to the committee said that “previous meetings between the NNPC and the committee were always frustrated because junior officers have been sent to attend the meetings. “Those who attended the meetings were either junior officers or they are not in possession of documents or details pertaining to what the committee want,” a source said.
The corporation is being investigated over sundry allegations pertaining to financial management. Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) led by Senator Magnus Abe had proposed the investigation since October 2013 to get details of the NNPC’s use of public funds.
However, the attempts were allegedly frustrated by the corporation as the officers who should appear and provide the needed information always failed to honour the committee’s invitation.
The latest correspondence between the committee and the NNPC Group Managing Director, Andrew Yakubu, was on April 4.
Details of the committee’s correspondence with the corporation, which will form the crux of the investigation are as follows: (1) Detailed record of the volumes and sales of all crude oil and products; (2) Detailed record of the volumes of crude oil received as part of the crude swap arrangement by local refineries, including (a) quantity used locally and (b) quantity swapped;
“Details of kerosene importation and distribution; (4)Details of the implementation and distribution; (5) Details of the number and management of aircraft in the corporation’s fleet; both chartered and purchased; (6) Details of funds expended on aircraft purchases, hiring and maintenance in the last two years; (7) Contract papers on the lease or purchase of aircraft; (8) Issues surrounding the Turn Around Maintenance and or rehabilitation of refineries and (9) Supply and distribution of petroleum products and ancillary issues.
The April 4 letter sent to Yakubu reads: “I am directed to refer you to the committee’s several letters of invitation to meet with the committee and requests to furnish the committee with information relating to the activities of your corporation since October 2013.
“I am to draw your attention to the fact that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, statutorily empowers the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and by extension, its committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) to oversight the activities of the NNPC and its subsidiary refinery companies.
“I am to further express the committee’s dissatisfaction with the conduct of the management of the NNPC, especially its seeming disrespect and disregard for the committee’s invitations and requests for information and data relating to the activities of the Corporation and its refinery companies.
“Also, in view of the inability and or unpreparedness of your officials to adequately respond to questions at the committee’s meeting of Tuesday and Wednesday, 1st and 2nd April, 2014, the committee resolved to further invite the Group Managing Director (PPMC), the Group Executive Director (R&P), and the Managing Directors of all the nation’s refineries to a meeting on Tuesday, April 8.”
Also, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Accounts mandated to investigate the allegations of N10 billion expenditure on chartered private jets by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke has accused NNPC of diversionary tactics aimed at frustrating the probe.
A member of the committee who disclosed this in a chat on Tuesday said both the minister and the NNPC were yet to respond to the memo sent to them by the committee.
He said a one-week ultimatum was given to the minister and the corporation and other agencies involved in the deal to provide the committee the necessary information to enable them commence work but none has been received.
The member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the committee which was expected to be completing its assignment by now was yet to commence the public investigation as a result of the failure of the minister and the NNPC to respond to the memo sent to them.
“By the mandate given us, we are supposed to be rounding off our assignment but as I am talking to you, we cannot say when it will start because both the minister and NNPC are not cooperating.
“They have not responded to our memo and no communication has been received from them,” he disclosed. He said the minister and the NNPC were served a memo since March 26 and wondered why it is taking them so long to reply, adding that the committee was equally disturbed with the recent sack of two top management staff of the NNPC.
“We are aware of steps being taken to prevent the Committee from carrying out its assignment. Why the removal of the director of the legal services of the NNPC at this point in time? If the corporation, and the minister come before the committee to explain their roles in the deal to all Nigerians, we as lawmakers will use all the constitutional powers we have to get to the root of the matter,” he stated.
In another development, sources confided in our correspondent in Abuja that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is covertly probing non-core commercial activities of NNPC.
The NNPC, which is the cash cow of the Nigerian economy is bedeviled with various allegations of corruption. Although the EFCC had earlier declared that NNPC’s account is too sophisticated to be probed, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Yakubu disclosed that he received letters seeking explanations on corruption allegations from the EFCC on daily basis.
Yakubu spoke at a re-cent parley in Abuja, expressing displeasure at the rate at which many people make unverifiable allegations of corruption against the NNPC.
“We receive letters from the EFCC on daily basis seeking explanation on various allegations of corruption at the NNPC,” he said. This, according to him, creates distraction for the corporation, which work is cardinal to the economy of the country.
A source at the NNPC however told New Telegraph yesterday that the corporation already had a heap of letters from EFCC on some of its transactions. “You heard from the GMD earlier that EFCC writes us almost everyday on various non-core transactions.
“We can only call for decorum in the way people just bandy irresponsible and ridiculous allegations against the corporation,” he said.
“Although the EFCC said it has no expertise to probe the core commercial activities of NNPC, the commission is already probing the non-core transactions of the corporation,” he added. This came as the sack of NNPC’s Legal Adviser and Company Secretary, Anthony Chukwuma Madichie, heightened sack fear among management staff of the corporation.
President Goodluck Jonathan who approved the appointment of Ikechukwu Oguine as a replacement for Madichie did not give reasons he relieved the former company scribe of his appointment. The President only gave the directive through a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati.
“The fear is real and not unexpected my brother,” a staff at the Abuja Headquarters of the corporation who spoke with our correspondent further said that “Everybody woke up to the shocking news of the sack of the Company Secretary, which came few weeks after the shake-up that led to the exit of the former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production (E&P), Abiye Membere. As is it now, nobody is sure of anything.”