Auditor-General Chickens Out Of NNPC Probe, Says It Lacks Power

Auditor General of the Federation
By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja
Like the two anti-corruption agencies of government that appeared before the Senate last week, the Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Samuel Ukura has said that his office lacks constitutional powers to carry out a forensic audit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, nor audit any other agency of government.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offence Commission ICPC las week also said they lack requisite skills to probe NNPC account.Mr. Ukura who appeared before  Senate Committee on Finance, which is currently investigating the alleged unremitted $20 billion to the Federation Account by the NNPC explained that the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria constrain him .The Auditor-General told the legislators that his office was constrained by Section 85(2) of the Constitution from auditing any agency of government, explaining that he could only do a periodic checks of NNPC and other institutions.This was even as the NNPC failed to clearly give account of $2.4 billion it claimed to have paid as third party financing, resulting in the Chairman of the Committee, Ahmed Makarafi, asking the Corporation to go back, reconcile and re-present its records to the Committee.

Ahmad Makarfi-led Finance committee had asked the Auditor-General to explain the link between his routine checks in the Nigeria National Petroleum corporation (NNPC) and the committee’s investigation.

The Committee specifically requested Ukura to furnish it with information on whether the periodic check his office was doing in the NNPC had to do with the investigation it is currently carrying out.

But Ukura, citing section 85 of the constitution told the committee that his office lacked the constitutional power to audit the accounts of the NNPC but that he had begun a routine check on the corporation as provided for in the constitution.

“We want you to in writing confirm to us what you are  checking in the NNPC accounts. Does it cover what we are looking for. We will only make further directives on this matter when you write letter to us to tell us whether or not what you are doing covered our own area of investigation” Makarfi said.

Again, following the confusion generated by its earlier memo to the committee regarding the $2.4 billion payment for third party financing, the NNPC, with the permission of the Committee withdrew the memo in order to present a fresh one that might eliminate the discrepancies noticed in the figures presented.

Group Managing Director of NNPC, Andrew Yakubu, said: “in view of the confusion, there is need to further clarify and align figures. So we will withdraw the submission and present it again.”

The committee had pointed out that figures in the memo as read out during yesterday’s hearing were confusing.

Moreover, in her submission to the committee at the investigative hearing, Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sarah Alade, stressed that the apex bank would ensure that the law was respected as it pertains to what fraction of the revenue generated by the NNPC should be remitted to the federation account.

Makarfi had asked the CBN boss to make the definite position of the apex bank known on what percentage of the generated funds of the NNPC should go to the Federation account.

“Look, the committee expects the CBN to provide details on the percentage that ought to be paid to the federation account by the NNPC. We should try to be as specific as possible if we are saying something. If you are not in a position to know, then it is wrong to assume”, the politician stated.

Also yesterday, the committee announced the conclusion of its public sittings even as it directed agencies that still had some documents to submit to it to do so without further delay, noting that the committee would soon commence private sittings to analyse all submissions that it had received.