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Nigeria NNPC says corruption claims 'imaginary'

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The head of Nigeria's state oil company on Monday said corruption within NNPC was overblown, casting doubt on whether the firm intends to tackle what several reports have highlighted as a major problem.

Numerous reports and audits have said graft is rife within NNPC. Transparency International and Revenue Watch last year ranked it as the least transparent oil company in the world.

"I think NNPC corruption is blown out of proportion. Corruption in NNPC is in the imagination of some people," Austin Oniwon, NNPC managing director, said at the opening of an oil and gas conference in the capital Abuja.

President Goodluck Jonathan has come under intense pressure to clean up Nigeria's 2 million barrel per day oil sector, after a week of protests over fuel prices revealed public anger about corruption and waste of the country' oil wealth.

Last month, Nigeria's government ordered an audit of its entire oil and gas sector following a week of anti-government protests. The anti-corruption watchdog also began a investigation into the sector and the Senate opened a separate probe into fuel subsidies, all within a week.

Sceptics say the Nigerian government has invited auditors into its oil and gas sector before -- and failed to act on their reports.

A report compiled by international accounting firm KPMG into the state oil company has been on the oil minister's desk for a year, but no action has been taken on it yet.

"No one in NNPC has ever been charged," Oniwon said, suggesting that this showed corruption is not a major issue.