The Senate has begun an investigation into the diversion of $1.05bn from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dividend to augment the shortfalls between the landing cost and pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (Petrol).
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Gas), Senator Bassey Akpan, raised a point of order at the plenary on Tuesday to urge the lawmakers to probe the withdrawal and payments.
President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, ruled that the committee should go ahead with the probe.
Saraki had on Monday said the upper chamber of the National Assembly would further probe the claims by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC, Maikanti Baru, on how and why the corporation was diverting the dividends from the NLNG.
The Senate had set up an ad hoc committee chaired by the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, to investigate an alleged $3.5bn account kept by NNPC for petrol subsidy payment.
Baru had, while appearing before the committee last week, said NNPC had only spent $1.05bn from the NLNG dividend account to defray the cost of “under-recovery” in the importation of fuel.
According to the NNPC boss, the decision was taken at the height of last fuel scarcity experienced by the country between December 2017 and January 2018.
He said the oil company acted in line with a directive from the National Assembly “to do everything necessary to end the scarcity of fuel in the country.”
Baru further argued that the decision was also in line with section 7 (4)(b) of the NNPC Act which mandates it to fund its operations from its revenues.
“It is noteworthy to mention that the NNPC represents the Federal Government, which holds 49 per cent stake in the NLNG shareholding,” he had said.
In a statement on Monday, Saraki, said that it was illegal for the NNPC to unilaterally draw from the NLNG dividend funds without appropriation by the National Assembly.
Saraki said the dividends paid to the Federal Government from the NLNG business were supposed to be kept in the Federation Account and shared among the three tiers of government.
Consequently, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, Bassey Akpan, yesterday, raised a point of order at plenary, seeking the permission of the Chamber to carry out a thorough investigation into the withdrawals and spending by the NNPC from the NLNG account.
He pointed out that, utilising the funds without appropriation by the National Assembly, and without the knowledge of state and local governments was an illegal act that should be investigated.
He said: “The Senate Committee on Gas has received several calls, complaints and questions from the general public through phone calls, emails on the basis of what has been trending in the newspapers and social media on the unauthorized withdrawal of over $1 billion from the proceeds of the NLNG dividends account by the NNPC.
“The NLNG dividend account belongs to the three tiers of government and comes under the Consolidated Revenue Account. Therefore, any unauthorized withdrawal from the account without the approval of the National Assembly or any other structure of government is illegal.
“I therefore, seek the leave of the President of the Senate, to allow the Senate Committee on Gas to investigate this withdrawal and other withdrawals and the way and manner the account of the NLNG proceeds is treated by the NNPC and report back to the Senate.”