Missing $20b: Falana demands audit of Federation Account
Lagos lawyer and human rights activist Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) has demanded an audit into the Federation Account by the Auditor–General of the Federation following claims of missing $20billion by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
The Auditor-General is to grant the request in two weeks; otherwise, Falana will apply for an order of mandamus to compel the Auditor-General to act.
In a letter to the Auditor-General dated February 7, the lawyer said following the allegation by the CBN Governor that $20billion had been illegally withheld from the Federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), there is an urgent need to audit the Federation Account.
The Federation Account is where all monies accruable to the nation are deposited before they are shared to the tiers of government.
To Falana, considering the claims and counter-claims from Sanusi and the NNPC over what was remitted into the Federation Account, it is evident there is no reliable document to prove what revenues were collected by the Federal Government.
Falana said NNPC accounts had been shrouded in secrecy. He blamed the National Assembly for abdicating its responsibility of scrutinising the accounts and not passing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law.
“From the foregoing, you will agree with us that the CBN, which keeps the Federation Account, cannot produce a reliable statement of the Account into which all revenues collected by the Federal Government is paid by the NNPC and other agencies of the government. Hence, Mr. Sanusi has a penchant for giving conflicting figures with respect to the funds in the account,” he said.
Falana urged the Auditor-General to immediately commence the audit of the Federation Account in accordance with Section 85 of the Constitution.
“Since neither the Finance Minister nor the Finance Committee of the Senate is empowered to reconcile conflicting figures pertaining to the finances of the government, we request you to audit the Federation Account – in line with Section 85 of the Constitution,” he wrote to the Auditor-General.
Section 85 of the Constitution states: “The Public Accounts of the Federation and all other offices and courts shall be audited and reported on by the Auditor-General who shall submit his reports to the National Assembly; and for that purpose, the Auditor-General or any person authorised by him in that behalf shall have access to all the books, records, returns and other documents relating to those accounts.”
In Falana’s view, unless the audit is carried out, the CBN and NNPC will continue to make claims and counter-claims on the state of the economy – to the embarrassment of the nation.
Also yesterday, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) urged President Goodluck Jonathan to, as “a matter of urgent national importance”, order an independent inquiry into the NNPC account since 1999.
The probe, according to the CNPP, will stop revenue leakages.
It said the drums of war from several quarters and “do-or-die attitude” as the country approaches 2015 general elections seem to echo and revolve around who signs the Oil Signature.
The CNPP expressed worries that the handlers of the President may feel threatened from their comfort zone if he embarks on the inquiry, but added: “However, we advise he remembers his Oath of Office and convokes an independent inquiry into the accounts of NNPC to clear his name.”
The umbrella body of opposition parties said failure to do so would mean that the President will go into the 2015 presidential election with less than transparent records. “For the avoidance of doubt, the regime, will be remembered as Jonathan’s regime not in any minister’s name,” the CNPP said.
The statement, signed by the CNPP’s National Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu, states: “It is our considered view that the 2015 general elections will be free, fair and more transparent, if President Jonathan can muster the political will to clean the augean stable in the NNPC, since the inception of our democracy or even his regime.
“A transparent audit trail by an Independent Inquiry, without prejudice to the PIB Bill, which from all indications has been kept in view, will ventilate the fouled atmosphere in the industry.
“President Jonathan would wittingly ink his name in the hall of fame of history, clear his name from this rot, sacrifice those who are tainting his name and protect our fledgling democracy and our dear country, if he honours this appeal.
“It is pertinent to note that no sane person can dismiss with a wave of the hand the monumental disclosure from the Governor of Central Bank and the constitutionally-authorised Economic Adviser to Mr President – no matter how inaccurate his figures might be.
“To us, the missing link is the accuracy of Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s figures, not the absence of the rot in the NNPC, which the Independent Inquiry will be mandated to unravel and cleanse for posterity.
“For example, can we dismiss his allegation that NNPC’s claim of expending $8.49b in paying subsidy is doubtful? More so after NNPC had officially earlier reported not making deduction for fuel between April 2012 and 2013 and when the National Assembly duly appropriated first N888b and secondly Supplementary Budget of over N100b in 2012 for fuel subsidy.
“Is the sustenance of the so-called (the late) General (Sani)Abacha $10 per barrel- sealing of Production Sharing Contract (PSC) formula of deep offshore Oil Wells not questionable? For Nigerians would wish to know why only $10 per barrel is paid into the Federation Account, even when Crude Oil sells for over $100 per barrel. What a grave injustice to Nigerians?
“Or do we page with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, that NNPC is ATM of PDP-led Federal Government?”