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NNPC boss defends withdrawal of $21bn NLNG funds

...As Reps Summon Finance Minister, CBN Governor

The Group Managing Director of the National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari on Thursday said the withdrawal of over $21billion from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dividends account was legally done.

Kyari stated this at an investigative hearing of the House Committee on Public Accounts Committee chaired by Wole Oke (PDP, Osun).

The Group Managing Director who was represented by NNPC Financial Officer, Umar Ajiya said the Corporation pulled out the sum from the dividends account on the authorization of the Federal Government through the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) and the NNPC.

According to him, proceeds from the dividends account were the Federal Government’s share of revenues from oil shared among the Federal and State tiers of the federation.

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Ajiya said: “All withdrawals(from NLNG dividends fund), were based on approved mandates of the relevant authorities. As far as NNPC is concerned, investments in NLNG were done on behalf of the Federal government. I was the treasurer of NLNG, so I was aware of the Federal government’s investment in the project.

“The same matter came at the FEC(Federal Executive Council), and was referred to a Committee, headed by the Governor of Kaduna State, but the fact is that the Federal Government, through the NNPC, is the true owner of the investment(the sum is withdrawn). It is accrued to the Federal government, not the Federation Account.

“There is no question of illegal withdrawal. Nobody can withdraw from the account, illegally; the CBN Governor can be invited to attest to that.

“Though the NNPC sits on the board (of NLNG) on behalf of the Federal government, proceeds from the investment, are managed and disbursed or dispensed or utilized, based on the instruction of the Federal Government. When I say Federal government, I do not mean, NNPC; ordinarily, it’s the Federal Ministry of Finance, that directs the utilization. We(NNPC), are mere, the agents of the Federal government”.

On the queries from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation on the alleged unauthorized deduction of over N1.2trillion in 2014 from proceeds from oil, the NNPC he stated that: “the NNPC couldn’t have remitted all its earnings” at the time to the federation account.

The Auditor General of the Federation also queried the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian Customs Service but cleared them on the issue of non-remittances for the year under review.

The ruling, the Committee’s Chairman, Oke invited the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele and the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, to clarify claims by Ajiya on the utilization of the NLNG fund.

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