From Tony Akowe and Victor Oluwasegun, Abuja
The House of Representatives on Tuesday accused the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of tampering with about $1.05 billion from the dividend account of the Nigeria Liquidified Natural Gas (NLNG).
The House, therefore, mandated its Committee on Public Accounts to invite the management of the NNPC as well as that of the NLNG and probe what happened to the dividend.
The House resolution followed a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Hon Ndudi Elunelu on the need to investigate the illegal withdrawal.
Elumelu said the NLNG was incorporated as a limited liability company in 1989 to produce liquefied natural gas and natural gas liquids for export and its production kick-started in 1999.
According to him, the NLNG is owned by the Federal Government represented by the NNPC with a shareholding of 49per cent, Shell Gas B.V. 25.6per cent, Total Nigeria Limited, 15per cent and ENI International, 10.4per cent.
Elumelu, the Minority Leader of the House, said dividends from the NLNG are supposed to be paid into the consolidated revenue funds account of the Federal Government and to be shared among the three tiers of government.
He expressed concern that the NNPC, which represents the government on the board of the NLNG, had without the required consultations with states and the mandatory appropriation from the National Assembly tampered with the funds at the NLNG dividends account to the tune of $1.05 billion, thereby violating the nation’s appropriation law.
“There was no transparency in this extra budgetary spending as only the group managing director and the corporation’s chief financial officer had the knowledge of how the $1.05 billion was spent,” he said.
He stressed that there were no records showing the audit and recovery of funds from the NLNG by the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, hence the need for a thorough investigation of the NLNG dividends account.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday passed the N168.8 billion budget of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) at the Committee of Supply.
This followed the consideration of the report on the budget as laid by the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. James Faleke
Presenting the report before the House at plenary, Faleke said: “That the House do consider the Report of the Committee on Finance on the 2020 budget of the FIRS and approve the recommendations therein” (Pursuant to Order 18, Rule 41 (2)01) of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives) (Committee of Supply).
“That a total expenditure of N168,809,476,220 be approved to defray the proposed personnel, overhead and capital expenditure cost of the Service during the fiscal year 2020;
“That the digitalisation of all processes in the administration of tax in FIRS should be undertaken so as to catch up with rapidly increasing economic activities most often carried out on-line without physical presence;
“That FIRS (Establishment) Act and other tax laws be amended to make it possible for FIRS to modernise its operations with relevant technology.”
All the recommendations in the report were adopted and the members approved the proposed cash for the tax agency.
The House gave the Service an extra N100 billion as an intervention fund.
Hon Faleke said the committee: “Accepts the need for the Service to have an Intervention Fund and recommends an approval of one off Special Purpose Fund to the tune of N100, 000,000,000.
“This fund will expressly assist the F IRS fund its immediate but pressing needs such as completion of the FIRS Head Office building complex within 12 months, six training schools, 30 prototype tax operations offices, purpose-built facilities for efficient taxation of the upstream petroleum industry and ICT infrastructure to identify and track digital transactions.”
The additional funds went without opposition and hence was passed by the House.
It would be recalled that the FIRS had appeared before the House committee to defend its budget and explain how it spent its 2019 budget.
Based on the performance of the Mohammad Nami-led management before the Committee, members agreed to follow through with the needs of the tax agency before the House during the presentation of its budget.