The House of Representatives, during its session on Thursday, took a significant step by establishing an ad hoc committee to conduct a thorough investigation into the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) regarding the alleged diversion and conversion of a staggering N20 billion by its officials, disguised as payment to consultants.
This move comes despite the NNPCL’s denial of the allegations earlier in the week on Monday.
The motion to investigate this alleged crime was presented by Hafis Kawu, the Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Currency, under the title of ‘Urgent Need to Investigate the Conversion of N20 Billion by Staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.’
Kawu stated that the actions of the NNPCL officials, if proven to be true, would be a clear violation of Section 88(1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, which makes it obligatory for the National Assembly to appropriate public funds before their expenditure.
He also emphasized that these funds should have been allocated to public needs, and therefore called for an urgent investigation into the matter with a prompt briefing of the House on the outcome.
The motion was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers, and the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, subsequently constituted a panel to oversee the investigation.
The panel, chaired by Kingsley Chinda, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party from Rivers State, is expected to deliver its report within a strict timeframe of three weeks.
In response to the allegations, the NNPCL issued a statement on Monday night vehemently denying the payment of N20 billion to ghost consultants, as alleged by an online media platform.
The Chief Corporate Communications Officer of NNPCL, Garba-Deen Muhammad, expressed deep dismay at the report, stating that NNPCL is a responsible corporate organization that does not engage in dealings with ghost consultants. He further highlighted that the process of engaging consultants at NNPCL is transparent, verifiable, and adheres to global best practices.
Muhammad described the allegation of a missing N20 billion as false and baseless, and demanded that the online media platform retract the publication, urging them to verify their facts before publishing such serious accusations.
The statement from NNPCL also clarified that the second component of the report, related to the Ogun State Government’s claim of back duty tax liability of about N18 billion against an NNPC subsidiary, the Petroleum Products Marketing Company Ltd (PPMC), is currently a matter before the court. NNPCL confirmed that PPMC has challenged the claim through its tax consultant, and the Ogun State Government has taken the matter to court, which is a usual practice in business circles.
NNPCL expressed confidence in proving its case in court and criticized the online media platform for making subjudice conclusions based on a matter that is already in litigation.
Meanwhile, in another development, the House also took action regarding the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), mandating them to put on hold the release of N15 billion counterpart funding requested by the Federal Government.
The House further directed its Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission to scrutinize the requests made by the Federal Government and report back to the House within two weeks. This resolution followed the unanimous adoption of a motion of urgent public importance put forth by Unyime Idem, a member of the House from Akwa Ibom State and the Peoples Democratic Party, who represents one of the states in the Niger Delta.
The motion, titled ‘An Urgent Call to the Niger Delta Development Commission to Put on Hold the Release of N15 Billion Requested as Counterpart Funding of Humanitarian Intervention by the Federal Government,’ emphasized that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs was tasked with addressing the intervention and humanitarian needs of the Niger Delta region.