MUCH furore has attended debates the financial status of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. The much telling of the revelation is the confirmation that NNPC budgets have not been available to the National Assembly since 1999.
Senate Committee on Petroleum Upstream is complaining that NNPC failed to meet the deadline for submission of its annual budgets from 1999 to date. This means the Senate was unaware of NNPCâ€™s budgets from 1999. The Senate is also probing N1.5 trillion NNPC withdrew from its coffers over the years.
In those years, the National Assembly watched as boards of NNPC made all the final decisions on NNPC. Who is the Senate blaming for the gross failure of its Committees on Petroleum in the past 11 years? A better way of evaluating the mess at NNPC is to probe what the Senate Committees did in those years.
Nigerians know that the depth of lawlessness we face results from public institutions like the National Assembly seeing their functions as platforms for selfish purposes. Where was the Senate when the NNPC committed these illegalities?
Every Senator who sat in those Committees and drew allowances from public funds should be held responsible for NNPCâ€™s mismanagement of resources. What did the Senators discuss with NNPC managements in the numerous meetings that one NNPC managing director once complained consumed much of his time?
NNPC says it spent N1.5 trillion, in unapproved budgets, to meet Federal Government commitments. NNPC in magisterial tunes asks the Federal Ministry of Finance to repay the N1.5 trillion, if it wants refund of N450 billion NNPC owes the Federation Account.
Austin Oniwon, NNPC Group Managing Director gave examples of how some past Nigerian leaders illegally withdrew N1.5 trillion from NNPC accounts. NNPC was asked to release $18 million for the establishment of a sugar company.
The Corporation also gave N651 million for the take-off of the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR. Oniwon, at the Senate hearing, said the Corporation was unable to pay N450 billion to Federation Account because of governmentâ€™s N1.5 trillion indebtedness.
Oniwon, in the letter to Minister of State for Finance, Remi Babalola stated, â€œNNPC is facing financial difficulties evidenced by amongst others, the inability to pay for domestic crude as at when due and delays in settling bills for fuel imports; the financial difficulties essentially stem from disequilibrium between costs and cash inflow streams; that the corporation is owed substantial amounts as un-reimbursed subsidy on petroleum productsâ€.
What clearer evidence does the Senate require on the financial crisis in NNPC? Why is Mr. Babalola being castigated when NNPC is emphatic about its insolvency?
Is there better evidence of indebtedness than the clarification from Mr. Oniwon who continued, â€œNNPC is insolvent as current liabilities exceeded current assets by N754 billion as of December 2008 and so; NNPC is incapable of repaying the N450 billion owed to the Federation Account unless it is reimbursed the N1.156 trillion from the Ministry of Financeâ€?
The Senate must clean up its own house. Its lax application of its oversight powers, for reasons that are not too difficult to guess, put NNPC and Nigerians in the present mess.
Not much would come out of this investigation which is another articulated distraction to give the impression the Senate is working. A proper probe of NNPCâ€™s finances would indict the National Assembly. Is the Senate ready to probe itself? Will the Senate find itself guilty?
The answers are obvious. NNPC simply benefitted from illegalities that reside with the mighty. Many Senators are still counted in this group.