- Apex bank may have given approvals for some withdrawals
22 withdrawals, totaling $3.2bn made from NLNG dividend account in three years – CBN says
Going by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s documents, submitted to the submitted to the senate committee on gas resources by the regulatory bank in Abuja, on Thursday, a total of $3.12 billion was withdrawn from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dividends account domiciled in the apex bank in the last three years. The withdrawals were made 22 times.
It will be recalled that the senate committee is investigating the $1.05 billion that the NNPC admitted withdrawing from the NLNG dividend account to “augment under-recoveries” in the importation of petrol, without official approvals from the senate or any tiers of the government.
According to the senate, the NLNG dividends were meant to have been paid the consolidated revenue fund of the Federation, to be shared among the federal, state and local governments.
A new development on the investigative seems to suggest that Nigeria’s minister of finance may have submitted approval mandates on the behalf of the NNPC to make withdrawals from the NLNG dividend account. It is yet uncertain which of the ministers gave the approval mandates.
According to Christopher Olomukoro, CBN’s acting director of banking services, the regulatory bank “also accepts withdrawal mandates from the Minister of Finance”, in response to the question posed to him by the chairman of the committee, Basey Akapn, asking whether authorization for withdrawal from the account came from any other entity or government official other than the NNPC.
The NNPC, through its NNPC group managing director, Maikanti Baru, had from the outset insisted that the corporation did nothing wrong as it acted in line with its establishment act. According to him, section 7 (4)(b) of NNPC act gives the NNPC the power and authorisation to corporation to fund its operations from revenues it generated.
Besides, the withdrawals, he said were necessary to meet the petroleum demand across the country given that the government has stopped subsidy payments in 2016, effectively putting a stop to importation of petroleum products by independent oil marketers.
Following up on Olomukoro’s response, Akpan asked: “So, who runs the account? Is it a joint account between the NNPC and the Federal Ministry of Finance?” according to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) to which the CBN chief answered: “No, but the issue here is that the Honourable Minister of Finance also has the power to submit mandates in respect of that account.”
According to Akpan, the CBN submitted mandates for seven out of 22 withdrawals which he said came from the NNPC, asking why the mandates from the minister of finance were not included in the documents submitted with the committee.
The committee therefore directed that all of the 22 withdrawal mandates with the CBN, the minister and NNPC; along with originating mandates and letters of approvals for its withdrawals from the account must be provided and submitted to the committed by November 30, 2018.