By Tordue Salem
ABUJA â€” THE House of Representatives ad-hoc Committee investigating the activities of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries has delved into another round of investigations over the alleged non-remittance $4.44 billion dividends that accrued to the Federal Government on investments in the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) project.
The House Committee on Public Procurement on its part has threatened to move against Total Upstream Nigeria Limited if it failed, within two weeks, to reverse its decision to â€œwrongfullyâ€ sell $43 million contract for Remotely Operated Vehicle Services to Oceaneering Limited, a foreign oil prospecting Company.
The contention over the NLNG funds, it was learned, followed a conflict in the records made available to the House Committee by the NNPC, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Budget Office of the Federation domiciled at the Federal Ministry of Finance.
The official records of the NNPC shows that a total $4,443,936,946 billion was paid to the Federal Government through the NNPC as dividends from NLNG between June 2004 and April 2009.
The money was received by the NNPC in its capacity as the representative of the Federal Government in the Joint Venture NLNG project in which Shell Gas, Total and ENI International (Agip) are also shareholders.
In a letter dated May 28, 2009, the NNPC acknowledged that the dividends were paid for each of the years spanning between and including 2004 to 2009.
However the records of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Budget Office of the Federation showed that dividends were only remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Account for only 2005 and 2007, amounting to about $127million.
Chairman of the ad-hoc Committee carrying out the investigations, Rep. Igo Aguma said the disparity was evidence that the lump sum of the dividends paid were not lodged into the Federation Account.
â€œThey have accepted to have collected the money, but where is the money if it is not in the Federation Account as required by the law? This is the mystery surrounding this investment. The NLNG has not cash-called for the establishment of new trains but where is the dividend on the initial investments made by the Federal Government?â€ Aguma queried.
However in a swift reaction, the Group General Manager, Public Affairs, NNPC, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma said the lawmakers investigating the issue of NLNG were getting many things wrong.
According to him, the allegations were unfounded, as the NNPC could not have â€œstolenâ€ such â€œhuge fundsâ€ accruing to the Federal Government through the NLNG.
â€œThe NLNG does not belong to NNPC; it belongs to the Federal Government. The idea held by the House Committee that NLNG paid $4.4 billion to the NNPC is not correct. Whatever profit or dividend NLNG makes goes to the Federal Government.
It is the Federal Government that decides what to do with the money. They may decide to re-invest the money in the same NLNG or otherwise. It is the decision of the Federal Government.
â€œSo, how can anybody come out to say that we squandered that kind of money? The truth is that NNPC can never spend that kind of money, because it is not its money.
The Central Bank, the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Federal Ministry of Finance are keeping a close watch on the movement of that money. Everybodyâ€™s eyes are on NLNG. NNPC cannot dip its hands in that money,â€ Ajuonuma said.
Reps threaten Total with sanction
In a related development, the Chairman, House sub-committee on Public Procurement, Mr. Matthew Omegara while giving a briefing yesterday, alleged the falsification of figures in the award of the contract by Total, accusing it of disregarding the Constitution of Nigeria and the statues on oil and gas in Nigeria. He regretted that even after TILONE Nigeria Limited was declared winner in a competitive bid round with Oceaneering International, Total went behind to award the contract to Oceaneering Nigeria Limited.
He noted that despite the declaration of TILONE as the winner of the bid, Total Upstream Nigeria Limited failed to implement NNPC Boardâ€™s directives which gave approval that the contract consisting of four remotely Operated Vehicles be awarded to TILONE.
He disclosed that instead of implementing the NNPC Board directives, Total Upstream engaged the services of a foreign firm known as Oceaneering International claiming that TILONE was not the company with the lowest bid.
According to him, investigations carried out by NNPC and other sister companies revealed that Total Upstream falsified the bid figures submitted by TILONE Nigeria Limited by adding various sums totaling about $10,975 million to the figure of $43 million earlier submitted, noting that this was a criminal offence.
â€œIn what is playing out as a classic case of disrespect for constituted authority, Total Nigeria is defying the directives of NNPC/NAPIMS to follow due process as laid down by the procurement Act and avoid arbitrariness in its contractual relations in the oil sector.
â€œWe wish to reveal here and we have our facts that Total Nigeria in complete disregard and defiance to due process and laws of the Federal Government of Nigeria awarded this contract to Oceaneering International as far back as July 12 2006 before the bid exercise was even conducted.
â€œWe are of the view Total Nigeriaâ€™s intransigence constitutes gross impudence and an attempt to undermine the Public Procurement Act and authority of the NNPC and by extension that of the Federal Government on whose behalf the NNPC Act pursuant to the laws establishing same.
â€œThe award of the contract to Oceaneering International has sounded a death knell on Federal Government Policy of Local Content Initiative drive, a well considered initiative by the Federal Government through which indigenous companies are made to participate and should benefit from the oil and gas sector.â€ He added.
The Committee therefore warned Total Upstream to immediately abide by the NNPC directives and award the full scope of the work to TILONE Nigeria Limited or face sanctions.