The House of Representatives, on Thursday, set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL. over the alleged diversion and conversion of N20bn by its officials in the guise of payment to consultants.
This is despite the NNPCL denying the allegation earlier on Monday.
The Deputy Chairman of, the House Committee on Banking and Currency, Hafis Kawu, had moved a motion of urgent public importance, urging the chamber to probe into the alleged crime.
Moving the motion titled ‘Urgent Need to Investigate the Conversion of N20 Billion by Staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(sic),’ Kawu partly said, “The House is informed that staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is reported to have diverted the over N20bn in the guise of consultancy fees paid to its consultants.”
Kawu stated that the alleged action by the NNPCL officials breached Section 88(1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, which, among other things, makes it compulsory for the National Assembly to appropriate public funds before they are expended.
The lawmaker also stated that the funds should have been spent on public needs.
Kawu called for an urgent investigation of the matter and that the House should be briefed on the outcome as a matter of urgency.
The lawmakers unanimously adopted the motion.
Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, consequently set up a panel chaired by a member of the Peoples Democratic Party from Rivers State, Kingsley Chinda, which was expected to turn in its report within three weeks.
But the NNPCL had denied the allegations, saying it did not pay N20 billion to Ghost consultants as alleged.
A statement issued by the Chief Corporate Communications Officer, NNPCL, Garba-Deen Muhammad, had partly read, “NNPC Ltd read with utmost dismay, a report by an online platform alleging: paying the sum of N20bn to ghost consultants, and theft of multi-billion naira tax due to the Ogun State Government.
“NNPC Ltd wishes to state that as a responsible corporate organisation, it does not have or deal with ghost consultants. At NNPC Ltd, the process of engaging consultants whenever the need arises is clear and verifiable and follows global best practices.
“It is, therefore, unfortunate that for whatever reason, the said online platform would make such a grievous allegation, mindless of the consequences of such actions. The claim of a missing N20bn is absolutely false and baseless”
The oil firm demanded that the online media platform should retract the said publication, stressing that the going organisation should verify its facts before going to the press.
NNPC said the second component of the said report was related to Ogun State Government claiming a back duty tax liability of about N18bn, against an NNPC subsidiary, the Petroleum Products Marketing Company Ltd.
“For clarity, PPMC had objected and challenged the claim through its tax consultant. Consequently, the Ogun State Government took the matter to court which is not unusual in business circles.
“The matter is currently before the court and NNPC Ltd will prove its case accordingly.
“In conclusion, NNPC Ltd strongly advises the said online publication to be mindful of the consequences of its actions before taking them.
It stated that for a matter that was already in court, as admitted by the online publication, it was sad that any medium could arrive at such subjudice conclusions as shown by its actions.
Meanwhile, the House has also mandated the Niger Delta Development Commission to “put on hold” the release of N15bn counterpart funding requested by the Federal Government, pending the approval of the Commission’s budget by the House, as it is part of the loot recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on behalf of the Commission.
Furthermore, the House mandated its Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission to “scrutinise such requests made by the Federal Government and report back to the House within two weeks.”
The resolutions followed the unanimous adoption of a motion of urgent public importance moved by a member of the House, Unyime Idem, who is also a member of the Peoples Democratic Party from Akwa Ibom State, one of the states in the Niger Delta.
The motion was titled ‘An Urgent Call to the Niger Delta Development Commission to Put on Hold the Release of N15 Billion Requested as Counterpart Funding of Humanitarian Intervention by the Federal Government.’
Idem, while moving the motion, noted that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs was inaugurated and commissioned by the Presidency to attend to intervention and humanitarian needs of the Niger Delta region of the country and promote the physical development of the area.
The lawmaker also noted that since its inauguration, the ministry had executed “fundamental and important” humanitarian intervention projects across the region.
According to him, part of the funds available for use by the NDDC is money recovered on its behalf by EFCC and given back to the Commission to ease the implementation of its financial obligations.
He said, “The House is cognisant that the Federal Government sent a special request mandating the Ministry of Niger Delta to jointly finance an intervention and humanitarian programme of sums running into several billions of naira, using the money recovered by the EFCC without budgetary provision.
“The House is also cognisant that the NDDC budget estimates for 2021, 2022 and 2023 are before the House for legislative approval.