The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, disagreed over remitted funds of the Corporation to the Federation Account as stipulated by the 1999 Constitution (as ammended).
The NNPC GMD who appeared before the Committee Chaired by Hon Busayo Oluwole Oke (PDP-Osun) for the First time after several failed summons was grilled on the financial accounts of the Corporation on 2015 financial operations.
The Chairman, in his opening remark stated that kyari’s appearance was based on the query from the office of the Auditor General of the Federation over dwindling government revenue from 2014 till 2020.
The lawmaker maintained that the Corporation was queried on the deduction from source of the sum of N865 billion from N2.4 trillion it generated in 2015, which the Auditor General, said was in violation of Section 162 of the constitution which provides that all revenue proceeds should be paid to the Federation Account.
The Corporation was in addition queried on the non-remittance of N3.8 trillion of domestic crude oil sales; the non-collection of gas receipts for some months in the year; and the issue of refund of N450 billion among others.
However, Kyari in defence said that thei Corporations action was backed by the provisions of the law, which allows it to make deductions of its running costs from source.
He explained that the Corporation derived its authority from the NNPC Act, a judgment of the Supreme Court and also the approval of the Attorney General of the federation.
According to him, “what we do is backed by the provisions of the law. First the NNPC Act is very clear that we should submit revenues net of our cost. There is also an informed decision of the Supreme Court and also the Attorney General of the Federation, that position is correct and supported by the provisions of the law”.
However, the Committee Chairman, Oke, reminded Kyari that “the NNPC is an agency owned by Nigerians and expected to operate at profit” saying that it was untenable it spends what it generates as running cost.
Oke said that “if there is the need we can come up with a Bill that will make money available for its running costs, while it remits everything it generates to the government”.
He said it was understandable that some of the operations may be emergency in nature, but it was important the country is not run as a banana republic.
Oke, who reserved ruling on the matter, said the Committee was going to set up a sub-committee of legally minded members to examine the matter holistically so they could come up with an informed decision.
According to him, “Let us compare the provisions of the NNPC Act with Section 88, 81 of the Constitution. We need to read the provisions of the NNPC Act along with sections 80, 81 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to be able to decide which is superior, and which we are to follow
“We will set up a sub-committee of legal minded members to read through the judgment of the Supreme Court on this matter vis-a-vis the letter of the Attorney General. We need to make an informed position of the matter. If the Supreme Court has taken a position, we need to be mindful of such. If we are in disagreement, the best option we have is to go into legislation, because it means the court has clearly interpreted the provisions of the law. Sources of law are judicial precedents.
“That is the way we can come up with an enactment, amendment, or repeal. So I want to suggest that we reserve ruling on the query bordering on deductions at source. Let us study the provisions of the constitution and the Act setting up NNPC along with the submission of the Attorney General and the Supreme Court judgment and we come back and make a ruling”.
In the same vein, the Committee summoned both the Nigerian Army and Defence Intelligence Agency, on the sum of $292 million and N2.4 billion given to the two Agencies respectively by the NNPC
The Chairman stated the Nigerian Army and DIA should should appear to explain what was done with the public money