Reps invite Emefiele over N32.5b payment without records
The House of Representatives has summoned Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emiefele to explain why about N32.5 billion was paid to two companies – Messrs GSCL Consulting and Bizplus – without formal records.
The House also summoned the Auditor General of the Federation, the Accountant General of the Federation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Managing Directors of Exxon Mobil, Nigeria Agip Oil Company, among others, to appear before its ad hoc committee investigating the missing 48 million barrels of crude oil.
While announcing the summons during the resumed investigative hearing yesterday in Abuja, Committee Chairman Mark Gbillah expressed displeasure over the failure of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to provide answers to the questions the committee sent to it while claiming that the questions were unclear.
Also, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Bashir Yusuf Jamoh, told the committee yesterday that about $1.7 billion judgment sum was still outstanding for the Federal Government to claim from a company that was found guilty of making false declaration about the crude oil it took from the country.
Gbillah said available records showed that the CBN paid N16.5 billion each to two companies on the same day, adding that the said amount was withdrawn by the companies within two months.
The lawmaker said it was important for Nigerians to hear from the apex bank why the amount was paid to the two companies, especially when the immediate past Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, denied knowledge of the payment.
He said all the companies and agencies summoned by the committee over the matter have a duty to respond to the summons.
According to him, even though the Ninth House is winding down, it can still issue a bench warrant for the arrest of those who have refused to honour its invitation.
Gbillah said: “Because of lack of response to the committee’s invitations, summons had to be issued by the House to the Managing Director of Nigeria Agip Oil Company, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, SNEPCO and SPDC, the Auditor General for the Federation, the Central Bank Governor, because of their lack of appearance to issues requested for by the House; GSCL Consulting Limited and Bizplus, with regard to payment of N16.5 billion on the same day.”
The committee chairman said he was unhappy with SPDC’s representative, who identified himself as Igo Weli, for lack of due diligence by the company and for what the lawmakers called an attempt to frustrate the work of the committee.
He said the committee was disappointed that being a leader in the industry, Shell could not claim ignorance of the issue when others had responded to the same enquiries.
But when the Shell team failed to inform the committee when it will answers the lawmakers’ questions, Gbillah ruled that the committee would make its recommendation to guide the 10th National Assembly in dealing with the issues.
Comenting on the $1.7 billion judgment sum yet to be recovered by the government, Gbillah said: “There exist about nine other cases with regard to alleged theft of Nigerian crude. This issue is not in our imagination.
“There is a formal legal judgment on this issue and there are cases still pending with regard to Nigerian crude.
“I call on the Bola Tinubu administration, relevant stakeholders and the anti-graft agencies to realise that Nigerians are waiting for an explanation regarding why the $1.7 billion has not been recovered from Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept with regard to the judgment against them since 2020.
“This is money that belongs to all Nigerians, and we expect that it should be appropriately accounted for.”
But NIMASA’s DG, who had appeared before the committee, told reporters that the agency was monitoring all the cases in court.
He said: “In 2013, when the revenue profile was low, NIMASA was directed from the Attorney General’s Office to coordinate two technical teams to source data on the actual lifting of crude oil and the last destination point to see if there were discrepancies.
“We discovered some discrepancies and worked with the legal team to look into the findings. From the findings, the legal team again discovered 10 companies liable of under-declaration. We instituted cases against those companies.
“Most of the cases are still in court. We won one of those cases and a directive was given by the court that $1.7billion dollars be paid to the government.
“NIMASA and the Attorney General’s Office continued to monitor the team of lawyers. In January this year, I wrote to them, requesting for an update on the cases in court. What we discovered is that some cases were on appeal. For such cases, the legal team is working on that while still following up on the ones still at the lower court.
“These cases are not instituted in Nigeria, but the destination where the criminal acts were committed.
“The straight answer is that these cases are still in court and we have those that have not reached the stage of appeal yet. It is not only NIMASA and the Attorney General’s Office that are interested in this matter.
“The EFCC is also interested because I know that they have been going about to investigate and make sure that the companies involved are brought to book.”