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Reps probe $1.2bn oil bloc scam

By Tordue Salem
The House of Representatives has launched investigations into an alleged missing $1.2 billion oil bloc bid round fund that was supposed to be lodged into a provisional account on behalf of the government in 2005.

The Usman Adamu-led Public Accounts Committee of the House is asking for details on the oil bloc transaction and the whereabouts of $1.2 billion accruals supposed to be held by the Petroleum Training and Development Fund (PTDF).

The fund, expected to have been generated from signature bonuses of oil bloc bid round in 2005, was supposed to have been paid into a PTDF Reserve Account, but the committee found, it was not.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was said to have directed that the money should not be paid into PTDF account because the law setting up PTDF did not envisage that such volume of funds would accrue to it.

Obasanjo was said to have directed that the money be kept in a special account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

But a CBN Director, Mohammed Nda, who represented the CBN Governor, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, when the matter came up yesterday at the House Public Account Committee, said  the amount was actually $1.07 billion and not $1.2 billion.

The CBN official noted that of the amount, some refund would be made to the  Korean National Oil Corporation (KNOC) due to the cancellation of oil bloc allocated to it.

Also speaking at the investigative meeting, the representative of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Ibrahim Dankwambo; Mr. O.I. Osibote, adopted the figure presented by CBN.

Osibote said the office of the AGF raised a letter of credit in favour of the Ministry of Finance to cover $231 million being a refund to KNOC.

He explained that KNOC paid for oil bloc allocated to it that was later cancelled.

He noted that it was only natural that the Korean oil company should be refunded since its allocation was cancelled.

“We don’t know whether the letter of credit has been utilised. We don’t know the status of the credit. But $231 million was a letter of credit in favour of Ministry of Finance.  We asked both the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Ministry of Finance what the amount was originally and what the status is now. We want to find out whether it has been utilised,” he said.

The committee demanded to know which account KNOC would be refunded but the answer was not readily provided.

Members of the committee also wanted to know why the AGF office created several accounts for signature bonuses.

Osibote claimed that it was a book keeping error that could be corrected.

Insisting that there was nothing fraudulent about positing funds that should have been in one account to different accounts, Osibote noted that “from 2006, we now have one account because we discovered that paying money into different accounts was not proper.”

Not satisfied with the explanations provided by CBN and AGF officials, the committee chairman invited Sanusi and Executive Secretary of PTDF, Alhaji Mutaqah Darma, to appear before the committee on Monday to throw more light the issue.


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