NNPC should provide evidence of how $10.8b was spent – Okonjo-Iweala

By The Rainbow

The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,  said on Sunday that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) should provide evidence of how the unremitted $10.8bn was judiciously  spent.

The minister said it was not enough for the NNPC claim to have used the unremitted funds for key operational costs.

'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.

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

She used the occasion to respond  to questions about the unremitted funds to the Federation Account by the NNPC and other economic issues.

According to her, the services of am auditors may be required 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.

The NNPC had admitted spending the $10.8 billion on operational costs after inter ministerial committee was unable to explain the flow of that amount in the government’s financial records.

Relevant ministries and department had met in. Committee to resolve where issue of missing $ 50 billion.

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

She said that  all those involved in revenue management meet every

month 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.

She  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.

According to her, apart from ensuring that all Federal Executive Council members do not work at cross-purpose, her job involves ensuring that every amount that should get to the Federation Account  is  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 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.'

Meanwhile, the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, has said  Friday that the the NNPC has no right to retain $10.8bn in income.

He blamed the drop in savings and and  consequent exposure of the nation to possible price shocks on the un-remitted funds.