The House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on the $17 billion missing from undeclared crude oil and liquefied natural gas exports to global destinations on Tuesday commenced its public hearing into the matter.
Declaring the hearing open, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, said incidence of missing oil money had become a recurring decimal in a sector which is the mainstay of the economy.
Represented by the House Minority Whip, Hon. Yakubu Bade, the Speaker said the National Assembly’s interest in investigating the sector stemmed from a deliberate effort to cleanse the industry of the rot which had become the hallmark of its existence over the years.
But curiously, progress of the hearing was hampered by the failure by heads of relevant agencies to turn up or provide for formal representation despite receiving correspondence from the committee.
Individuals who showed up supposedly for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) do not have formal authorisation to represent their chief executives, a situation which infuriated the committee members who refused to have any engagement with them unless their chief executives are present to address areas of interest in the probe.
In effect, only three out of the 15 agencies of government billed to appear before the committee made any form of appearance even though not acceptable to the committee.
The development prompted Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, to adjourned sitting till today and mandated the heads of all invited agencies to appear before it unfailingly.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), Nigeria Navy, Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) all shunned the hearing.
Namdas warned that there could be no greater obligation than honouring the committee’s invitation to address such an issue of national importance.
Nevertheless, he said though the past administration had initiated a probe into the missing money, the investigation was inconclusive as it was marred by litigations.
He said prior to the public hearing yesterday, the committee had written to a number of international oil companies and relevant government agencies for information on the alleged missing funds.
He said: “I am happy to inform the gathering that the committee has gotten useful information from the submissions made thereon. “
Namdas, in his preliminary remarks, said though the oil sector remained veritable sources of wealth and greatness of the country, it has been marred by tales of woes occasioned by unhealthy practices.
According to him, reports had indicated that 57 million barrels of Nigeria crude oil were illegally exported and sold in the Untied States between January 2011 and December 2014 with an estimated loss of over N2 trillion to the federal government.
He said the fight against corruption could not be meaningful without serious searchlight on the industry given that perpetrators are the high and mighty who are inexorable ‘models’ which the society looks up to.
Credit: All Africa