Legal Nigeria

Reps panel threatens arrest of NNPC, subsidiaries’ chiefs for non-rendition of accounts

By Nicholas Kalu, Abuja 

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries are to appear before the House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee on Friday or have a warrant of arrest issued against them, the Lower Chamber has said.

The national companies are to appear in the investigative hearing by the committee to answer for their financial operations, following a query by the Auditor General of the Federation (AuGF) over dwindling revenue to the Federal Government.

Committee Chairman Oluwole Oke, who gave the directive, said the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government were operating on the Treasury Single Account (TSA), while NNPC was using its subsidiaries to operate commercial banks without the knowledge of the Accountant General of the Federation.

There has been a cold relationship between the committee and the NNPC over the failure of the latter and its subsidiaries to answer questions over how their funds were being managed.

The committee also accused the NNPC of shielding its subsidiaries by failing to compel them to appear before the lawmakers to answer queries on their financial operations.

NNPC’s Chief Financial Officer, Umar Isa Ajiya, some weeks ago, had appeared before the committee and submitted that they were going to speak on behalf of their subsidiaries, a position the committee rejected.

The committee had said the subsidiaries were legal entities and must speak on their own.

Last week, NNPC’s Group Managing Director Mele Kyari told the lawmakers that the corporation and its subsidiaries were authorised by law to make deductions at source to fund their operations.

He had said his delay to appear before the committee was due to some exigencies.

But a management consultant, Crincad and Cari Nigeria Limited, in a letter submitted to the House Committee, dated March 12, 2021, declared such deductions as illegal.

“May we draw the attention of the Public Accounts Committee to the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of A. G. FEDERATION Vs A. G. ABIA STATE & 35 ORS (2002), where the issue of Source Deduction to fund Joint Venture Contracts from the Federation Account was declared illegal and a perpetual injunction placed against such unconstitutional practices, among others,” the letter by its President, Elder Ngozika Ihuoma, said.

Oke, last Friday, was piqued that the NNPC subsidiaries had not appeared before the committee and render their financial accounts, as they were expected to do, as of last week.

He directed that the corporation and its subsidiaries must appear before the committee or a warrant of arrest be issued against them.

The lawmaker gave them seven days to appear before the committee.

Also ordered to render their accounts within the same period are: the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Ministry of Interior; Ministry of Works and Housing; Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS); Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment; Zenith Bank Plc’s headquarters; Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria; the Ministry of Justice and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).

Others are: the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC); National Library of Nigeria; Fiscal Responsibility Commission; the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP); Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON); Industrial Training Fund (ITF); National Lottery Trust Fund; West African Examination Council (WAEC); Nigerian Football Federation (NFF)and the North East Development Commission.