Published On: Wed, Apr 5th, 2017

By Etuka Sunday The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has urged the Federal Government to put urgent machineries in motion to recover over $21 Billion unremitted funds disclosed by its independent reports of the extractive industry, to fund the country’s economic recovery plan. In a policy brief which focused on unremitted funds, economic recovery and oil sector reform, NEITI noted that the recovery of these huge unremitted funds is more than enough to jump-start the economy. According to the NEITI Policy Brief: ‘‘Findings from a series of audits of the oil and gas sector carried out by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) shows that NNPC and its upstream arm, NPDC, have failed to remit $21.778 billion and N316.074 billion to the Federation Account. These are amounts due from three main sources: Federation assets divested to NPDC and NPDC’s legacy liabilities; payments for domestic crude allocation to NNPC; and dividends from investment in Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG) paid to but withheld by NNPC. Recovery of these funds will significantly enhance government’s fiscal position in the short term.’’ The NEITI brief urged the government to go beyond recovery of these funds to putting in place adequate measures to ensure: Revaluation of the assets divested to NPDC to determine the actual market prices with a view to recovering the full value of these assets and securing optimal benefits from them; Review of the relationship between NPDC, NNPC and the Federation to determine and establish effective lines of accountability of NNPC’s subsidiaries, and determine optimal mode of operation in line with global best practices; Review of the process of acquisition of OMLs by NNPC and NPDC to ensure that long-term net positive value is realized given the availability of alternative economic options. A breakdown of the unremitted funds disclosed by NEITI reports of the oil and gas industry over the years include outstanding payments of $1.7billion arising from the transfer of eight OMLs from Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC) and the sum of $2.2million from four OMLs from Nigeria Agip Oil Company to the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company respectively. NEITI reports disclosed that the NPDC is yet to pay for these major national assets that were transferred for its commercial operations. Also contained in the breakdown of unremitted funds is cash call paid on the transferred OMLs amounting to about $148.28million. This is in addition to legacy liabilities amounting to the sum of $1.5Billion and the huge sum of $15.8billion unremitted to the Federation account from accrued NLNG dividends between 2000 and 2014. A breakdown of the outstanding recoverable sum of over $21.8 billion and N316 billion is shown in the table below: The NEITI policy brief recommended a comprehensive review of the transactions to conform to EITI accountability principles: ‘‘NEITI’s review of transfer of the country’s oil assets to NPDC also shows that these decisions were not underpinned by sound economic judgment. Although NPDC was established to foster indigenous participation in the upstream sector, it is not really able to produce at substantial levels on its own. In mid-2006, total output from its wholly owned production was just 10,000 bpd. On the other hand, production from its service contract agreement with Agip was 65,000 bpd. Reasons given for NPDC’s disappointing performance include: undue interference by NNPC, inadequate financial structure, inability to source project finances. These bottlenecks in indigenous production seem to have led to the current strategy of the NPDC entering into partnerships with both international and indigenous oil companies who do the actual exploration and production on NPDC assets. Despite NPDC’s clear operational and capacity deficiencies, the company continues to be allocated valuable concessions of Nigeria’s most productive OMLs.’’ On the NLNG dividends, the NEITI policy brief noted with concern that while there is evidence of payment of dividends from NLNG to NNPC, there is no similar evidence to show that NNPC remitted the dividends to the Federation account as required by sections 80(1) and 162(1) of the constitution. According to the NEITI policy brief: ‘‘NLNG operates as a private company run by its private partners. Despite owning majority shares, the government of Nigeria is not involved in its management but earns revenues from its investment in the enterprise in form of dividends, interests and loan repayments. Since the Federation’s shareholding in NLNG is held through NNPC, dividends are paid to NNPC, which should remit same to the Federation. However, NEITI audits have revealed that until 2015, NNPC has failed to remit the interests and dividends from NLNG to the Federation Account. For the period between 2000 and 2014 NLNG paid a total of $15.8 billion to NNPC, which NNPC acknowledged receiving but failed to remit to the Federation Account’’, the Policy Brief concluded. NEITI therefore recommended urgent measures to recover the funds to support the on-going economic recovery plans. ‘‘Total unremitted revenues to government’s treasury amounted to $21.778 billion and N316.074 billion. At current exchange rate, this comes to about N7.2 trillion. Achieving a recovery rate of just 20% would significantly offset the projected deficit for the 2017 budget. A third of the computed unremitted revenues would completely eliminate the need to borrow to finance the budget. This has both short and long-term positive implications for the economy.’’

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The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara

The Speaker House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Yakubu Dogara, needs no introduction. In this 2nd part of the interview we run last week, he eloquently spoke on alleged corruption at National Assembly and other burning political issues. Excerpt:

Mr. Speaker, Some Nigerians think that there is corruption in the Parliament; is there corruption in the House of Reps? And the notion is that the Parliament cannot fight corruption without opening itself to public scrutiny by making public its budget and running costs. How soon we can expect this open Parliament?
I know we have promised to open the books, and we will definitely open the books, certainly. I however don’t know in what form the corruption is said to be, but let me first say that Parliament is not something that exists outside of Nigeria, and the issue of corruption itself is not something that can be eliminated completely out of any community, just like prostitution and other vices.
But what you can do is to reduce it to the barest minimum, to a level that is almost seen as non-existent. The advanced countries that we try so much to copy or speak so glowingly of what they have been able to achieve, it’s not that corruption has been eliminated 100%. We have seen this hydra-headed monster called corruption rearing its head even in elections of certain jurisdictions, clearly the signs are there, but our collective effort is that we reduce it to the barest minimum. Anyone who thinks that he will eliminate corruption, to eliminate it totally will amount to eliminating the totality of the human race. Because no human being is clothed in perfection, all we can do is to reduce it to the barest minimum.
The people have said they want to know what we do with the entire budget that comes to the National Assembly, it’s not a problem, we have directed the Management, and hopefully with the 2017 budget, this issue will come to a rest. Each Agency that draws from the money appropriated for the National Assembly has been mandated to bring its budget and at the end of the day, when we are done, everything will be published. I can guarantee that 100%. So we can end this discussion, when people see it, even if we are getting it wrong in any section, we will not run away from wise council. This is how best to do it, because we want to improve on standards and improve on the image of the National Assembly, because it is through that we can make the National Assembly very effective.
Some people even claim that the entire money, like now what we get is N115 Billion, hopefully it will go up this year. I’m not too sure, but it’s 115 Billion Naira now that is given to the entire National Assembly and National Assembly is an Arm of Government. Some aggregate this 115 Billion and divide it by the number of Senators and Members and say that is what we take home as our allowances. They call it jumbo! Is that the case? They fail to look at the bureaucracy. We have over 3,000 people working within this bureaucracy who are paid salaries, claims and entitlements all from this 115 Billion. So no one accounts with what happens to their money. The Senate President or Speaker doesn’t know what goes to them.
Apart from that, we have the aides. Each sitting Member has 5 aides each; Senators have 7 each. So multiply 5 by 360 and see the number of aides; then 7 by 109. They draw their salaries there, the trips and everything. The last count made when I was Chairman, House Services, we were budgeting 12 Billion for Legislatives Aides a year.
Then we have the National Assembly Service Commission, it’s an Agency not even here, they have their offices outside, unfortunately they don’t even have permanent structures, they are paying rent where they are, I don’t know the number of staff they have, but they also take rent and all from the 115 Billion, we have like 500 staff, we have commissioners representing the Geo-political zones, plus the Chairman, all of them draw funds from here. Then we have NILS, I’ll employ you to go to where NILS is building their headquarters, with a facility that will also serve as a university, go and see what they have been able to achieve, you’ll be shocked. The headquarters is being built by Julius Berger. NILS draws funds from this 115 Billion and they will account for it as well. We are going to put it there in the Press, what do they do with the money given to them?
Then we have the Public Complaints Commission, they don’t have any provision in the budget except from the funds they draw from us, so they will account for themselves. Then we have the National Assembly Budget and Research Office just like you have the Congressional budget office in the U.S, our goal is that they will be non-partisan in the analysis of annual budgets and they provide Members with timely tools for debate and engagement across board with the Executive when it comes to budgetary matters. Then we didn’t have them, but now we have them and they also draw funds from this 115 Billion, so they will bring their budget and tell the world what they do with their money. At the end of the day when we publish these details a lot of people will be shocked, but it will be published. And I hope that will put paid to the perceived corruption in the National Assembly.

Sometimes it’s even your Members that raise the red flag, like the issue of padding by Abdulmumin Jibri. When you have these people talking all these, what else can come from the public?
Well that is why it is good to engage in investigative journalism. We have so many journalist friends, they can ask. For instance they say Members are paid 10 Million a month is it true? He was unable to bring forth evidence. He should have brought documents; he is a Member, he should have brought his bank documents to prove that was he was being paid, very simple. But there was no shred of evidence to back any claim, other than I have said it. I can say anything and you know you can’t convict on the basis of one witness if you read Law, except in the exceptional case of the confession of a dying man, like if you are stabbing me and I am about to die and state that Mr. Ahmed has killed me. That is taken to be the gospel truth. On that basis, someone could be convicted, because what is the motive for somebody dying to tell lies? So that is the only condition in Law when you can safely convict someone on the testimony of one person without corroboration from another witness or documents, and to elaborate, it is the confession of a dying man, so the man must then be certified dead for it to be binding. If he survives it, it then goes back to the jurisprudence of having witnesses to substantiate it.

What’s your take on Cross-carpeting from one political party to another?
On the issue of cross-carpeting you’ll agree with me that the role of democracy is freedom, freedom of choice – and you can’t just imbibe something not working for you and hold it unto death. Democracy deals with freedom, even though in some cases the freedom may be circumscribed, and most freedoms are, just as the fact that you are free to waive your hands to the high heavens, as long as it doesn’t touch my nose, because then it becomes trespass to my person.

So freedom to cross-carpet is circumscribed to the provision in the Constitution that states that there must be conditions in your political party that gives you the latitude to decide to cross-carpet. If those conditions are not there and you cross-carpet, you lose your seat. It’s clearly provided for in the Constitution, but where you have political party that is factionalized, this faction fighting this faction, they are in court and pronouncements are being made, if you are a lover of peace, and you don’t want to belong to faction A or B, where are you? Do you have a Party? You must embrace A or B, whichever way you go; you haven’t escaped. Someone who has the freedom that democracy provides can say no, I don’t want to belong to A or B, I don’t see any as a choice for me, what do you want him to do? Will you legislate that the person remains in the middle till the reconciliation is achieved?
So for every kind of thing we do there has to be exception to the general principle. Cross-carpeting really is not good especially when people gravitate towards the ruling party, because at the end of the day, if care is not taken, you end up with a one party State – and in most one party States you know what happens, conditions for the actual practice of democracy won’t be there, in the sense that there is no opposition. So a group of people can adopt whatever model they want to adopt and implement. So politics of opposition gives life to democracy and brings quality to debate and government programmes. But the point is that we cannot legislate for individuals to die in certain political parties. If they feel that whatever they belong to will kill them, they have the right to escape for their political lives.

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