Continued from yesterday…
AGAIN, Sanusi was left unsanctioned for misleading the public and heating up the polity unnecessarily with his false figures. His supporters argued that the yet-to-be-reconciled $10.8bn (which they chose to brand as “missing”) was enough justification for the false alarm the CBN boss raised. NNPC came up with the explanation that the $10.8bn was not missing but was used for some of the critical operations it carried out as part of its statutory duties.
It also provided legal backing for the expenditure (Section 7 Sub-section A and B of the NNPC Act which provides that the corporation can engage in such expenses and deduct same from proceeds of crude oil sales).This effectively robbed Sanusi of the victory or justification he thought the so-called “missing” $10.8bn gave him.
Sanusi’s fresh allegation of $20bn unremitted oil revenue against NNPC could, therefore, be seen as a gambit to redeem his image which has been thoroughly pulverised by his misguided adventure with false figures. For the fresh figure of $20bn unremitted oil revenue he has pushed into the public space, he has come up with series of documents to support his case just as he did in the last two instances. He appeared to have forgotten the vital lesson from his previous misadventures that figures could seem infallible when seen from a particular perspective that does not depict the entire picture.
The last hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance led by Senator Makarfi where the inter-agency committee chaired by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala presented its final report proved very instructive. Relying on the certification given by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, which is statutorily empowered to verify petroleum products imports, the inter-agency team agreed that the outstanding $10.8bn has been accounted for by NNPC. Sanusi himself agreed that since the PPPRA has signed off on the NNPC figures, he has no problem agreeing with the figures.
The new issue the inter-agency team came up with was that they lacked the expertise to thoroughly assess the evidence supplied by NNPC for its claims; so it called for an independent forensic audit to look at the books of the various agencies involved in the collection of oil revenues with a view to coming up with an authentic report to clear the air once and for all.
While Okonjo-Iweala owned up to the fact that the inter-agency team lacked the technical expertise to scrutinize the evidence supplied by NNPC, Sanusi on his part stated that neither he nor the CBN has the technical expertise to determine how much crude oil the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, produced and what part of it should accrue to the Federation Account. But in another breath, he said he stood by his $20bn unremitted oil revenue figure. The question that arises from all these is: How did he arrive at the fresh figure of $20bn unremitted oil revenue when he has acknowledged lack of expertise in the rudiments of the business from which the revenue in question flows?
The two points that have emerged from the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led committee hearing are: 1.) that further expert opinion by way of forensic audit is required to scrutinise the documentary evidence provided by NNPC for the shortfall of $10.8bn revenue into the Federation Account; 2.) that further expert opinion is required by way of legal interpretation by the Attorney General of the Federation on the legality of the Strategic Alliance Agreement between NPDC and Atlantic Energy and Seven Energy and the revenue that accrues to the two companies on the one hand, and how much of the revenue that accrue to NPDC should be swept into the Federation Account.
Clearly, these are outside the range of what Sanusi can speak on or determine with any certainty. It is, therefore, wrong to take Sanusi’s figures in this matter as the whole truth and on the strength of that pillory NNPC as a section of the media and civil society are currently doing. Besides, there is nothing in Sanusi’s track record with figures that commends him for such support.
Going by his antecedents with figures, it would be remiss for Nigerians to depend on Sanusi’s fresh figures. He has taken Nigerians down this futile road before; it would be foolhardy for anyone to take this figures as the gospel. It is wise to wait for the reports of the forensic auditors and the Attorney General as recommended by the Senate Committee on Finance than to allow the nation be taken on a ride by an unsure banker whose figures cannot be relied on.
*Dr. Obanta, a legal practitioner, wrote from Maryland, USA.