THE Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, is a towering representation of impunity with which government agencies act. Something needs to be done about NNPC, and quickly too, to make the point that no individual or organisation is above the law.
Probably worse than the NNPC’s conduct is the tepidity with which the National Assembly approaches issues of NNPC’s gross abhorrence to lawful conduct in its finances. How long would the National Assembly keep displaying its helplessness over an organisation that decidedly throws the country off gear at will?
NNPC is yet to resolve its debt to the Federation Account which the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed told a House of Representatives investigation, stood at N862 billion between 2004 and 2008. NNPC disputes the figures. She said the debt was through deductions from the proceeds of domestic crude oil accruing to the Federation Account that were neither authorised nor legalised.
Chairman of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, FMFAC, Mr Elias Mbam confirmed N450 billion debt to the Federation Account by the NNPC.
While these remain unresolved, NNPC without approval from the National Assembly borrowed $1.5 billion to clear its debt to foreign fuel traders. When did NNPC accumulate the debts? Why did NNPC not seek the approval of the National Assembly?
Chairman, Senate Committee on Media, Information, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said, “Under the law, no government agency can borrow money without the approval of the National Assembly. We have to know before it was done first; but then the question to ask under the circumstance is: what happened to the N161 billion supplementary appropriation approved by the National Assembly for government to take care of the shortfall in the fuel subsidy budget?”
What has the National Assembly done about previous NNPC breaking of the law? How can lawlessness be permitted in such an important organisation?
“It was our only option and it was purely a commercial decision and I don’t think we require the National Assembly’s approval to go ahead with it. It was purely a management decision to ensure steady supply of petrol and to save our face among our foreign partners,” an NNPC official said.
The National Assembly should do more than asking the same questions as ordinary Nigerians. It should punish those who violate specific provisions of the law which the Fiscal Responsibility Act ably captures. It is important that the National Assembly contests NNPC’s fiscal irresponsibility in court.
It is no longer enough to complain about NNPC and other government agencies whose fiscal indiscipline makes Nigerians poorer. The National Assembly should not accept this latest defiance of our laws.