NNPC says withdrawal of $21bn from NLNG dividends account not illegal

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has defended the withdrawal of over $21billion from the dividends account of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), saying it was not illegal.

The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, represented by the Chief Financial Officer of the corporation, Mr. Umar Ajiya, on Thursday, at an investigative hearing of the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives chaired by Wole Oke, said the withdrawal was authorised by the Federal Government, as represented by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the NNPC.

The Guardian quoted him as saying, “All withdrawals (from NLNG dividends fund) were based on approved mandates of the relevant authorities. As far as NNPC is concerned, investments in NLNG were done on behalf of the Federal Government. I was the treasurer of NLNG, so I was aware of the Federal Government’s investment in the project.

“The same matter came up at the Federal Executive Council (FEC), and was referred to a committee headed by the governor of Kaduna State, but the fact is that the Federal Government, through the NNPC, is the true owner of the investment (the sum withdrawn). It is accrued to the Federal Government, not the federation account.

“There is no question of illegal withdrawal. Nobody can withdraw from the account illegally. The CBN governor can be invited to attest to that.”

He added that “Though the NNPC sits on the board (of NLNG) on behalf of the Federal Government, proceeds from the investment are managed and disbursed or dispensed or utilised, based on the instruction of the Federal Government.

“When I say Federal Government, I do not mean NNPC. Ordinarily it is the Federal Ministry of Finance that directs the utilisation. We (NNPC) are merely, the agents of the Federal Government”.

To get more clarification on the claims by the NNPC boss on the utilization of the fund, the House committee resolved to summon the Minister of Finance,  Zainab Ahmad; Governor of CBN,  Godwin Emefiele and the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.

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