The House of Representatives insisted on Monday that crude oil worth $15bn was missing in the report of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation for its 2011 to 2014 transactions.
An ad hoc committee of the House is investigating the alleged theft of $17bn crude oil and gas resources from the country within the period.
The committee is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Adamawa State, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas.
At the opening of a public hearing on the alleged ‘undeclared’ exports in Abuja, the committee confronted the NNPC with the tabulated details of the exports and noted that crude worth $15bn was missing in the report of the corporation, which it submitted to the House.
Namdas noted, “We wrote you to provide information on the crude for the period under review.
“You replied by giving a monthly breakdown, but you did not provide the total.”
For instance, in 2011, the committee observed that crude details in the value of $4.2bn were missing.
In 2012, the value of missing details was $5.5bn, while in 2013, it was $2.5bn.
For 2014, the committee disclosed that the missing crude was worth $2.8bn, bringing the total to about $15bn.
The NNPC was represented by its Chief Operating Officer (Upstream), Mr. Bello Rabiu.
He admitted the missing details but clarified that the corporation had all the information and would forward it to the committee immediately.
Rabiu stated, “We will give you all the details. We admit that the details are not complete, but we will provide everything to the committee.”
He argued that the corporation had nothing to hide because its accounts were regularly audited by auditing parastatals including the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation; the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative; and external auditors.
However, the committee gave one particular instance, where it stated that Texaco Outershelf Nigeria Limited lifted various quantities of crude with ‘unnumbered bills of laden’.
The oil was lifted from the Agbani Oil Field in 2011.
It said the company lifted 974,751 barrels on October 20, 2011. On September 9 of the same year, 961,963 barrels were lifted by Texaco.
The committee added that the figure for July 9, 2011, was 971,931 barrels, while 974,953 barrels were lifted on July 18 of the same year.
Namdas asked, “Why did both the NNPC and the Department of Petroleum Resources not mention the lifting in their submissions? Does this mean that even the DPR did not charge royalties?”
But Rabiu replied that the NNPC would go back into its archives to properly explain the nature of the lifting.
He explained that it was possible that Texaco was lifting its own share of Production Sharing Contracts.
“We have to check again to be sure that the lifting was not the quantity due to Texaco,” he added.
The NNPC was directed to produce the list of oil companies that paid tax on their operations between 2011 and 2014 in addition to the Letters of Credit they opened.
There was drama at the hearing after the officials of the Federal Inland Revenue Service testified that the only way the agency assessed the NNPC for tax on operations was through the declarations made by the corporation.
The Deputy Director, Tax Policy Department at the FIRS, Mr. Gabriel Ogunjemilusi, painted a picture of the NNPC as an organisation that was very powerful.
When asked whether the agency conducted any form of independent investigation on the NNPC, Ogunjemilusi replied that it could seek other sources of information, but must still largely rely on the information dished out by the corporation.
“There are tax processes to follow and they are in line with our legal framework,” he said.
But legislators overruled him, saying that FIRS could not possibly make appropriate Petroleum Profit Tax assessment by merely waiting for documents supplied by the NNPC.
The committee produced documents indicating that over $616.9m PPT was lost between 2011 and 2014.
When Ogunjemilusi heard the figure, he quickly reacted that he would have to check the information with his office before making further comments.
On its part, the Nigerian Customs Service simply informed the committee that it relied on oil companies to ferry its officials to various oil platforms before they could monitor crude lifting.
Taken aback by this submission of the customs, Namdas observed, “So, what customs is telling this committee is that on a day the oil companies do not take them to the platforms, they can lift as much oil as they like? It means on such days, Customs does not have records of the lifting?”