Reps sound tough as NNPC, others shun summons

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts on Thursday criticised the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Melee Kyari, and heads of the corporation’s subsidiaries for failing to appear before it.

The committee said it was the 10th time the officials would write to defer their appearance at its investigative hearing on the audit queries issued against them by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, including unaccounted proceed of oil sales amounting to about N3.9tn.

The subsidiaries with queries against them include the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited, Petroleum Products Marketing Company Limited, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency and the NNPC Retail Limited.

One of the queries by the OAUGF alleged under remittance of revenue from domestic crude oil sales totalling N3.88tn.

Kyari was expected to respond to the audit query on “payment through Nigeria Gas Limited Funding Account $30,963,894.01 (N16,099,887,119.77) as well as misapplication of Joint Venture Cash Calls for other purpose, $292,094,405.82 and N2,474,295,000”.

The committee is also probing into the alleged illegal withdrawals from the account of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company Limited totalling $20.3bn and the utilisation of the funds from inception to date.

However, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Dr K. A Obateru, in a letter to Chairman of the Committee, Wole Oke, with Reference Number GGM/GPAD/08 and dated February 10, 2021, said the GMD of NNPC would not appear before the lawmakers on Thursday.

Oke said, “NNPC has written us again for the 10th time to seek deferment and ask for another date.”

The letter, a copy of which our correspondent obtained on Thursday, partly read, “We wish to reassure the leadership of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the NNPC holds it in very high regard and esteem.

“However, we regret the inability of the GMD to attend the meeting scheduled for February 11, 2021, due to a prescheduled critical and time bound operational matter.

“In view of the current circumstance as stated above, we kindly request that the meeting be rescheduled. Please accept the assurances of the GMD’s best consideration at all times.”

Several members of the committee, condemned the NNPC and called for a drastic action against the corporation.

In his ruling, Oke urged members of the committee to give the NNPC GMD and other invitees one more grace.

He said, “I want to plead with us that we should give them the last opportunity and that the clerk should write a very strongly worded letter to the GMD of NNPC and its subsidiaries.

“The worst story is that there are 18 subsidiaries under NNPC who also have queries to answer and the GMD ordered them not to appear because they are subsidiaries.”

Several lawmakers also noted that the letter was signed by the spokesman for the NNPC and not the GMD, and therefore should be rejected.

Bamidele Salam noted that democracy thrives where there is respect for the rule of law and institutions of government.

Another lawmaker, Victor Mela, described the non-appearance as “disappointing and unfortunate.”