By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – THE National Economic Council, NEC, Thursday, directed the federal government revenue agencies like the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporations, NNPC, Nigerian Petroleum Development Companies, NDPC, Nigerian Custom Service, Nigerian Ports Authority among others to refund N526 billion and $21 billion which is about N8 trillion that was under-remitted to federation account.
The NEC at its meeting presided over by the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, received the final report of the forensic audit of the agencies conducted by the international firm, KPMG and observed that eighteen agencies did not remit the appropriate money to the nation’s treasury.
Other agencies to refund the money include Federal Inland revenue Service, FIRS; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA; Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC; Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN; Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR among several.
Briefing State House correspondents after the NEC at the Council Chambers, State House, the Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwanbo, who also chaired the NEC’s ad-hoc technical committee on the probe, said the Council adopted the report and resolved to refer those found culpable in the underpayments to the Attorney-General of the Federation for prosecution.
According to him: “KPMG presented the report of the technical audit of RGAs concluding that a total sum of N526 billion and USD$21 billion was under-paid to the Federation Account.
“Council adopted the presentations and reports of the KPMG and the recommendations of its Ad-hoc Committee including a resolution to identify instances where there appears to have been criminal infringements and forward such to the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Legal Committee of the National Economic Council for further action.
“Council resolved to pursue strengthening of the NNPC governance structure to prevent further recurrence of such gross under-remittance by the NNPC and other RGAs.”
The Ad-hoc Committee, which also has other members as Governors of Edo, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, and Lagos States as well as the Finance Minister, further recommended a refund of the amounts under-paid by the defaulting agencies.
Dankwanbo added that “one of the resolutions of NEC today is to extend the audit to June 2017. So the audit will continue for the remaining agencies: NNOC, NPDC, DPR, Customs, Federal Internal Revenue Services, NPA, Maritime Authorities, all the revenue generating agencies and the details of the infringement are contained in the report.
“The most important decision that was taken is that a sub-committee will be set up, which will be an arm of the legal committee of NEC that will look into details of these kinds of infringements and make sure that those issues that are criminal and require prosecution will be handled by office of the Attorney General of the Federation.”
The NEC also heard that the balance in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) as at May 14, 2018 stands at $1.803 billion; the Stabilization Account as at May 14, 2018 stands at N15.72 billion; and the current balance in the Natural Resources Development Fund as at May 14, 2018 stands at N116.10 billion.
Asked if the Council will not commend agencies that remitted 100 percent, he said “And also to say that an audit is an exception report, it is not an okay report. So we are not looking for a company that is doing well.
He said, “Accountability does not mean you are doing well, the mirror is very big and depending on how you look at the mirror that is how you will see yourself.
“So it is an exception report, we are not looking at the good boys, we were looking for exceptions. And to go further, it is forensic audit, detailing this kind of short comings.”
Also briefing, the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, disclosed that the suspicious subsidy payments by the NNPC was also discussed during the meeting but that it was referred back to the sub-committee on remittances, which he chairs.
Yari said, “Yes, the item was brought up for discussion but it was referred back to the sub-committee remittances in which I’m chair. We are doing the nitty, gritty with NNPC in terms of remittances.
“Don’t forget that the reason we got it right in 2016 on the NNPC side is because the oil prices were too low. It was easy for everyone to get fuel into the country and then make its profit.
“So, when the price started jacking up then the marketers started adjusting back because they need to have a template of cost recovery and how they are going to make up the difference from the pump price to the landing cost of what they are importing.
“Our problem is the volume, the quantity of consumption which is not acceptable. Working with the governors so many decisions were taken but by next month, we are going to adopt the position that either the governors take responsibility for the subsidy in their states based on their consumption or we look at other ways.
“For instance, if you say we paid N800 billion subsidy, you will ask who are we paying the subsidy to? And if you look at infrastructure development and capital programme of the federal government, it is about N1.1 trillion, almost 70 percent of what you are spending developing the economy.
“If there is no infrastructure development then you cannot talk about development of the economy. N800 billion is a huge amount and we must look into it: who is benefiting from it.
“By next meeting (May or June), we will definitely come up with a position of the government at both levels of volume of what is being brought into the country and what the state and federal government collaborate to check”, he stated.
He further updated the press with highlights on a report of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Council in collaboration with the Nigeria Communications Commission, which recommended State Government’s intervention in boosting the country’s drive towards more investments and business friendly environment.
These include: Improving broadband penetration in the countryside; Resolving multiple taxation; Facilitating access to land; Providing security for investment; Standardising regulatory requirements; Facilitating integrated business linkage; Collaborating on project development; Providing shared facilities.
Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola, briefed on the work of the Technical Working Group (TWG) and the Sub-national Ease of Doing Business Project covering October 2017 to date, some of which include: Adopting the model of Presidential Enabling Business Environment (PEBEC) by the States working with their reform champions;
Collaborating with the States in setting up structure for Ease of Doing Business similar to the PEBEC; and Organizing State and regional stakeholders’ fora supported by the States in order to communicate and validate the impact of reforms with SME/OPS within each State and region.
Minister of National Planning, Udo Udoma, gave the NEC his report on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) Focus Labs conducted round the country recently.
The Labs identified 164 projects spread across the six geopolitical zones of the country, indicating that over 500,000 jobs are likely to be created by 2020; and that more labs would be conducted in due course for other sectors, with a recommendation that States should adopt the same model.