Committee investigate 47m barrels of oil unaccounted for

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House of Representatives Adhoc Committee investigating $17 billion allegedly stolen from undeclared crude oil and liquefied gas sale in the international market has demanded for a proper explanation on the sale of 47,366,887 barrels between January 2011 and December 2014.

The Abdulrazak Namdas-led committee expressed dissatisfaction over the differential in the documents submitted to the committee by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Navy on the crude lifted within the said period.

According to the documents submitted to the committee, 13 oil companies over lifted 7,423,266 barrels of crude in 2011 while 18 companies over lifted 20,367,803 barrels of crude in 2012.

Also, the committee, as part of its investigation, asked the NNPC to provide it with details of all the accounts it operated before the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA).

The lawmakers said the information is to enable the committee determine the actual amount accrued from the sale of crude oil and payments into Federation Account and level of compliance with extant financial regulations.

Namdas, who confirmed that International Oil Companies (IOCs) paid directly into the CBN Petroleum Profit Tax Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) account, expressed concern over NNPC’s denial of the account, saying, Shell Petroleum specifically paid over $2 billion into the account as BO/Shell/NNPC in 2012.

However, NNPC General Manager, Finance Crude Oil and Marketing Division, Chris Akamairo, said, “no operator can pay cash call” into the account directly.

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The lawmakers also queried the corporation for failing to give details of the money paid into the Petroleum Profit Tax account on behalf of FIRS; the sum of $8.8 billion accrued from 80,069,372 barrels of crude, which the corporation claimed that SPDC lifted as well as the disparity between NNPC and DPR records on crude lifted by Star Deepwater, SNEPCO and Total Upstream.

In his response, NNPC’s Acting Chief Operating Officer (Upstream), Roland Ewubare, who disagreed with the position of the lawmakers, observed that the differentials were not realistic.

Ewubare argued that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) wouldn’t have accepted Nigeria producing beyond the approved quota, adding that it was also impossible for a cargo to load 10,271,091 barrels of crude as alleged by Customs in its report sent to the committee.

While noting that a standard cargo vessel can lift 950,000 barrels, he further informed the committee that the nominated production level is different from actual production.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, told the committee that there are nine ongoing cases in Abuja and Lagos against some companies including Chevron, Total, Agip, Adax Petroleum and Brass Oil Services Limited, aimed at ensuring strategic recovering of stolen hydrocarbon and liquified gas.

He further explained that the Federal Government filed the cases following a request by NIMASA to do so.

Malami also said President Goodluck Jonathan, via a letter dated November 29, 2013, through the AGF’s office, approved the request by NIMASA to enter into agreement with a forensic firm, Molecular Power System Limited, to execute the retainership agreement on the recovery of the stolen crude.

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He, however, noted that the Federal Government has not commenced the determination whether to institute criminal charges against the affected companies.

The AGF urged the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of two bills critical to the fight against corruption, namely, Proceeds of Crime and Whistle Blower with dispatch, stressing the need for synergy between the three arms of government.

He disclosed that the TSA and whistle blower policies have helped in blocking leakages within the system, adding that “those laws that add sense and meaning should be treated with dispatch so as not to allow impunity to reign in the system.”

He maintained that the series of litigations and appeals filed by the IOCs were responsible for the delay in the determination of the cases.

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