By Henry Umoru, Emman Ovuakporie, Johnbosco Agbakwuru& Joseph Erunke
ABUJA – THE National Assembly joint Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, yesterday issued bench warrant on seven oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region for failure to appear before a public hearing to defend themselves for alleged non remittance of the statutory funds to the commission for the development of the region.
This is as the lawmakers have accused the management of NDDC of not keeping accurate financial records with remittances from oil companies which has robbed the commission of funds to execute projects in the region.
The position of the joint committee was as a result of revelations from some oil companies that had made frantic efforts to meet with he management of the NDDC to reconcile their accounts with he commission and settle the necessary outstanding.
Oriental Energy Resources specifically told the committee that it had made several efforts to meet with the NDDC since December, 2015, and had written about three letters to the commission to have a meeting to reconcile accounts, adding had $1 million to pay to the commission for the past six months but NDDC has not given the company audience.
The Chief Technical Adviser to Oriental Energy Resources, Engr. Goni Sheikh who disclosed this at the meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives joint committee on NDDC, at the senate wing, Abuja, told the committee that his company paid $18 million to the commission in 2014 and had set aside the $1million only that the commission had failed to schedule a meeting with the company despite several letters sent to its management.
Engr. Sheikh pleaded with the committee to intervene by making the NDDC schedule meeting so as to reconcile all the accounts.
He said, “As at December (2015) we had $1million to pay to NDDC. We have written several letters to the commission for us to meet and reconcile our account, but we have not received any reply. We plead with the committee to talk to the NDDC for us to fulfil our obligation, we know what the law says.”
Chairman of the senate committee on NDDC, Peter Nwaoboshi lamented that those who had represented the NDDC had created the impression that it was the oil companies that were not remitting what they should be remitting to the coffers of the commission.
He said with testimonies from some of the oil companies, it appeared the NDDC was satisfied with what it had, adding, “there is a procedural lapses in NDDC. The regulations, the procedure they are adopting in that office will be a matter between us and them.”
He also said that the process of forensic audit of the commission had started as there were discrepancies in the financial accounts presented by the commission.
On the inability of some companies to remit the statutory amount to the commission in the past 10 years, the committee expressed disappointment with the management of the commission, though, the exonerated the Managing Director of the commission because she was still new on the board.
Senator Nwaoboshi also directed that bench warrant should be issued to the oil companies that failed to attend the interactive meeting, even as he said that hat he committee was doing as a patriotic duty for the country.
A member of the Committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu representing Imo East said that h found it difficult to believe that NDDC that as looking for funds to execute projects would see money and reject it in reference to the $1million from the Oriental Energy, although, he said that the committee will hear from the commission before making its conclusion on that.
In his own comment, Rep Uzoma Nkem-Abonta had suggested that the committee should carry out forensic auditing of the commission’s account.
Some of the committee members said that by the financial records provided by NDDC, there were discrepancies and that the commission should be made to account for all the remittances from the oil companies and that there will be timeline to that effect.
“We need to do proper reconciliation of NDDC account. There could be secret account in which oil companies paid money to NDDC and they go into private pockets.
“The impression is that the companies are not paying, I am not even sure that the ones paid by oil companies are in safe hands. Before, the impression is that the companies are not paying, but today, we have seen that the reverse is the case.
“We should discontinue the revenue collection for NDDC and investigate their account.”
The seven companies to be placed on bench warrant are, Continental Oil and Gas Ltd, Conoil Oil Producing Limited, Niger Delta Petroleum Resources, Allied Energy Plc, Sheba Petroleum Exploration and Production/Express Petroleum, Newcross E& P, Panocean Oil Corporation and Atlas Petroleum Development Coy.