NNPC must prove how it spent $10.8bn - Okonjo-Iweala

By The Citizen

The Minister of Finance and Cordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has  distanced her self from the allegation that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has not accounted for unremitted $10.8bn, adding that the organisation must explain on how it spent the sum.

The minister said this in Lagos on Sunday, while responding to questions about the unremitted funds to the Federation Account by the NNPC and other economic issues.

She spoke at a dinner organised in her honour by South-East and South-South Professionals.

'If the money was spent on operational costs, let us see evidence that it was spent in an authorised way. And if not, let the amount be remitted to the Federation Account,' she said.

To ensure that the issue is properly resolved, Okonjo-Iweala said the services of auditors might be required.

'I am not the auditor of the NNPC account,' she added.

There had been disagreements over the actual amount unremitted by the NNPC, but the finance minister explained that it was not unusual to have conflicts over the amount to be remitted by an agency.

She said the government, however, had structures in place to resolve that.

According to her, every month, all those involved in revenue management meet at the FAAC Committee level to review what has been paid into the Federation Account by agencies such as the Nigerian Customs Service and the Federal Inland Revenue Service. And they ask questions when figures conflict.

Okonjo-Iweala also said people were beginning to misunderstand her role as the Coordinating Minister of the Economy.

'I am the Coordinating Minister of the Economy; not the superintending minister… I cannot do the job of the NNPC,' she said.

She, however, said apart from ensuring that all Federal Executive Council members did not work at cross-purpose, her job involved ensuring that every amount that should get to the Federation Account was remitted.

Okonjo-Iweala also said the government was working to boost the non-oil revenue to compensate for revenue short falls as a result of sectoral incentives provided to encourage local production.

She added that the government had, apart from working hard to block leakages in the oil subsidy management, set up teams to block leakages in the old pension scheme and address the problem of multiple taxation.

According to her, the government will continue with its integrated personnel management scheme, which together with other leakage-blocking efforts, had saved the country hundreds of millions of naira.

She said, 'Multiple taxation is a major problem and we are looking at it to see how we can get rid of minor multiple taxes and focus on the main taxes.'

The minister has come under heavy criticism in recent times with regards to some of government policies, but she said she remained undaunted.

She said while there were still many things to be done in the economy, the government was clear about its plans.

She said, 'When you understand what you have to do, you are undaunted… All the attacks make me strong. I am a fighter by nature and we are on the right track.

'I am not saying that we have all the right answers, but allow us to work; I am going to keep working and I enjoy a good challenge.'