OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives is insisting that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited produce before it, the leadership of its 17 subsidiaries.
The summon is sequel to an indictment by a report of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) over financial infractions between 2014 and 2019.
Speaking on Tuesday at the resumed investigative hearing on the report, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, Oluwole Oke said NNPC’s shielding of its subsidiaries amounted to the company hiding something from Nigerians.
NNPC’s Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mele Kyari, however, told the committee that the company was not hiding anything from Nigerians, while also dismissing earlier media reports that about 107 million barrels of crude oil could it be accounted for in 2018.
Oke said the House was shying away from invoking the provisions of the constitution to issue a warrant of arrest on the leadership of the subsidiaries who have refused to appear before parliament to answer question arising from the AuGF report.
Reacting to the statement by the CEO that he would take responsibility for the actions of the subsidiaries, Oke said “with due respect, the parliament differs with you because we are guided by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Legislative Houses Privileges Act and our rules.
Yes, you have submitted a consolidated account, but the Auditor-General who submitted his report on us audited, conducted audit pursuant to Section 85 of the Constitution and audited the account of these subsidiaries, published the report, and submitted the same to the parliament.
The report specifically mentioned these subsidiaries and having done so, the parliament is duty-bound to take the queries and observations as contained in the report. Asides this, parliament can also pursuant to the provisions of the constitution invite anybody to give evidence before this parliament.
Re-iterating the need for the heads of the subsidiaries to be present themselves, the Committee Chairman explained:
If a particular agency under your leadership is mentioned, we cannot shave their head in their absence. They have to be here. Yes, you have rendered your account which is before us. But these subsidiaries must appear before this parliament to answer the queries raised by the Auditor-General of the Federation. They have to answer their father’s name.
With due respect, the NNPC is not in a position to dictate to parliament how it conducts its business. We have to change the impression of Nigerians about NNPC. We have listen to the comments of some governors about NNPC and we must change the narration by telling Nigerians that NNPC operates transparently.
Except and except you have something to hide, then you can continue to shield these subsidiaries. But they must appear before Nigerians and tell them about the funds in their kitty. They have to come here and answer the queries about the abnormalities the Auditor general observed in their operations. This is our position.
“We don’t want to go through the process of invoking the necessary laws by issuing a warrant of arrest. We believe that we can jaw-jaw, that we can discuss because we are all serving Nigerians.
These companies are your subsidiaries and if we are to go by your assertion that they are registered on their own under CAMA, then it further attests to the fact that they have to appear here by themselves. That is not even the issue, but the Auditor-General for the Federation specifically listed the names of these companies. That is our position. So, take a date when you are bringing them.
Your purpose of coming today is to produce these subsidiaries because you wrote that these agencies are under you. That was why we asked you to bring the leadership of these subsidiaries. That is what we expected today.
If they are here, they should introduce themselves and the Auditor-General will be invited to read out the queries for them to answer because the queries were not directed to you in person. They were directed to these subsidiaries. We object to your position. They must appear here because this is their parliament. If they are not here, so be it. That is why we said you should give us a date to bring them.”
In his contribution, Chinyere Igwe (PDP, Rivers) said by the admittance of the GMD, he cannot legally stand-in for the subsidiaries since he admitted that they were registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act and operating as individual companies.
He said “by the clarification of the GMD’s statement that these companies are fully registered, it means that they are entities of their own by provision of the CAC act. As a result of that, the GMD is not totally liable. I, therefore, ask that the GMD allow them to stand on their own because he cannot speak for them.
Any society that does not have laws, there will be anarchy and lawlessness, with the big killing the small just like we have right now with Russia killing Ukraine. Based on that, the constitution is the grundnorm to which all Nigerians are relating. That is what gave rise to NNPC, parliament, Auditor-General.”
“By implication, the parliament did not make the Auditor-General’s report. But these companies owned by Nigerians have refused to do what they are supposed to do. We have not asked you to come and tell us how many barrels of crude was lifted or how many of that was stolen or who has stolen them.
There are silent questions raised by the Auditor-General which they must tell us. We are not doing anything out of the ordinary, but just being guided by the ground norms in line with the constitution,” he added.
In his remarks, Kyari said “First, let me clarify an issue. NNPC has nothing to hide. We have nothing to hide from Nigerians. In view of that, we have published the same audited account that you have for Nigerians to see, read and comment on.
Those accounts are a complete reflection of all our transactions, including our subsidiary companies. So, we are hiding nothing from Nigerians.
I agree with you that we can be more transparent. Can we do something different from this? Absolutely yes. Are we doing enough? Yes, we are doing more than enough. No National oil company in this world publishes its audited statement of account. There is no company that publishes its monthly report as we do.
Therefore, I expect that you should congratulate us that we are doing more than expectations in terms of transparency and accountability. We owe this to Nigerians because it is their company and we sincerely believe that these companies are owned by the over 200 million Nigerians, we are accountable to them and we must be transparent by every means possible.
But as we do this, we must also recognise that we are running a business on their behalf and this business has rules and responsibilities and part of it is to have a report of this nature which the Auditor-General endorses by law for them to deliver on.
On the ruling of the committee, the GMD said “it is still very fair because I know that this is a very fair parliament. You are representatives of the people and so, have a responsibility to protect the people. You also have a responsibility to allow us to speak.”
Reacting to the reported missing of 107 million barrels of crude oil, Kyari said “I believe that this parliament represents all Nigerians collectively. We can have individual differences, but we all represent the interest of Nigerians. The image of Nigeria is very important.
Two weeks ago, it was in all the media that 107 million barrels of crude was stolen or diverted. You will not appreciate the evil or bad image this has created for our country.
Our lending partners have called me that this is the wrong approach and that they will not lend to us without clarifying issues. Auditor-General is here and we are in the same country. We are all serving this country. You can’t declare something like that without it having effect and if we don’t respond to this, it will be obvious that it is what is happening in our country.
Nobody has stolen 107 million barrels of crude oil. If for any reason, it was not well captured by the Auditor-General, it is a different issue. So, this company is hiding nothing from none and we will appear before you as directed next week. But have it at the back of your mind that we have nothing to hide.”