The Senate is set to probe the alleged unlawful misappropriation of $4 billion by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Ltd (NPDC) since 2013.
Moving a motion at plenary on Tuesday, Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Dino Melaye, alleged that the diversion of oil revenue between the two agencies of government had continued unabated since 2013.
According to him, the NDPC has continued to lift crude oil from divested oil wells OML 61, 62, and 63, worth over 3.5 billion dollars without remittance to the federation account.
He also said that NDPC had continued to lift crude oil from divested oil wells OML 65, 111 and 119 to the tune of 1.85 billion dollars, out of which only 100 million dollars had been remitted.
“While this practice may have started before the present administration, it has continued under the watch of the new administration without abating.
“In 2016 alone, between January and August, a total of $344.442 million worth of oil was lifted by NPDC without remittance to Federation Account and also not paying royalties and other taxes on lifting.
The lawmaker expressed concern that such amount of money could be diverted at a time when the country was facing severe economic challenges.
He said the amount so far withheld could add 4,000 megawatts of electricity to the national grid, build about 11 world-class teaching hospitals, six healthcare centres each in the 774 local governments, among other s.
Supporting the motion, the Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, commended Melaye for making such important information available to the senate.
He wondered how such level of corruption could go on in a country currently facing recession.
Ndume urged the senate to carry out a thorough investigation into the allegation with a view to unraveling the level of corruption going on in the sector.
He said, “I support the motion. I want to emphasise that whenever the Senate receives something like, this we should know the seriousness we need to attach to it. “You can imagine what 3.5 billion dollars will do to the economy in the face of recession.’’
On his part, Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa (PDP- Abia North), said the allegation, if found to be true, was an infringement on the 1999 Constitution (Amended).
He further said that those involved should be made to immediately pay the money into the consolidated revenue account.
The lawmaker called on members of the joint committee to suspend their Christmas vacation so as to conclude findings and report back to the Senate in January 2017.
The Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Communication, Sen. Solomon Adeola, said that the revelation was a wake-up call for the Senate to use its powers to unravel irregularities going on oil in the sector.
According to him, the figures quoted in the motion are alarming, following the difficulties encountered by the Federal Government in implementing the 2016 budget.
He said, “There has been continued allegation of corruption in the oil sector for years but nobody bothers to ask questions.
“This is a task this present Senate must see to a logical conclusion to serve as deterrent.’’
However, the Chairman Senate Committee of Gas, Sen. Bassey Akpan, drew the attention of the senate to the fact that part of the information provided in the motion was already in court.
He pointed out that allegation of crude oil lifting from divested oil wells OML 61, 62 and 63 was already in court, adding that acting on it would amount to contempt of court.
He said, “In as much as I am not against the content of this motion, the issue of NPDC and unremitted funds has been there for a long time and the issue of the oil wells has been investigated by the 7 Senate.’’
President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, called on the committees to thoroughly investigate the agencies and report to the senate in plenary on Jan. 9, 2017.
He said the Senate would continue to resist attempts to sabotage the effort of the current administration in the fight against corruption.
“As part of our legislative agenda we made a pledge to the electorate that we must put an end to this level of misappropriation and recklessness.
“This must stop and I believe that these committees have the duty to ensure to get to the bottom of this.
“The frightening part about this is that it is not just about OML 61, 62 and 63.
“Secondly and even more worrisome is that they did it in the last administration and they are still carrying out the practice. We must put an end to this.
“We cannot continue with a situation where people are sabotaging the effort to fight corruption.
“We ask ourselves, where are the Minister of Petroleum, the Auditor-General and anti-corruption agencies?’’ he said.
Saraki called on relevant agencies, including the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and all anti-graft agencies to carry out their responsibilities effectively to stem the tide.
The Senate, therefore, mandated its Joint Committee on Petroleum Upstream, Petroleum Downstream and Finance to immediately commence investigation into the allegation through public hearing and submit report on Jan. 9, 2017.
The upper chamber further mandated NNPC and NPDC to immediately remit monies obtained on behalf of the Federal Government to the Federation Account.
It also directed the NNPC to as a matter of urgency forward its yearly estimates for repairs and pipeline operations and maintenance to the National Assembly for appropriation.