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Pay Fed Govt’s N640b debt, NEITI tells NNPC

By on March 26, 2011

The Chairman of the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Prof. Assisi Asobe, yesterday urged the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to pay into the Federation Account the remittances it is withholding.

Speaking with newsmen in Abuja, Asobie said during NEITI 2005 audit, it was discovered that NNPC owed the Federal Government N640billion.

He claimed that when NEITI questioned the debt, NNPC owed the Federal Government, the corporation argued that it withheld the money because the government was owing it subsidy funds that was even over the N640billion.

He added that NEITI, however, urged the corporation to comply with the standard accounting process by paying the Federal Government and later demanding for its subsidy money.

He said: “Let me give you one typical example that is causing problem between NEITI and NNPC. We said NNPC is owing the government N640 billion. That is what NEITI 2005 audit found. “But NNPC said no and we asked why ? They said because the government is owing us for subsidies or something even greater than that. We said the government should pay NNPC but NNPC should not use the non-payment of subsidy as a basis for not paying the government what it owes. We don’t do accounting that way. We don’t. If I owe you I pay and then demand what I owe.”

Commenting on the audit report, Asobie said: “If you go to the 2005 audit report, and go back to 1999, it would be discovered that the amount of money that was got from the oil sector alone was over N16 trillion.

“But go and look at the government budget from 1999 to 2005, it will be discovered that the figure is close to N16 trillion.

“He, however, raised some questions saying: “The question is what about VAT? What about income tax. If this is what the government is getting from the oil sector alone and this is what the government is putting in the budget, you should ask questions. But who is going to ask the questions? It is not NEITI. It is the civil society.”

He said NEITI is not a toothless bulldog as critics claim because the law that established it makes provision for sanction except that the organisation cannot prosecute.

He said if an organisation or firm gives NEITI a false information, the law provides for action to be taken including the imprisonment of the staff and it can recommend to the Federal Government to seal up an entity.

Source : The Nation