By Gift Chapi Odekina
The House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Accounts at the weekend vowed to invoke relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to compel the Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari and heads of 17 subsidiary agencies on refusal to render accounts from 2014 to 2018 in breach of extant financial regulations.
The affected agencies include: Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited; Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company; Petroleum Products Marketing Company Limited; Duke Oil Company Inc.; West Africa Gas Limited; Nidas Marine Limited; Hyson (Nigeria) Limited and Nigerian Gas Company.
Others are: National Engineering and Technical Company; National Petroleum Exchange; NNPC Pension Limited; Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company; Port Harcourt Refining Company; NNPC Retail Limited; Integrated Data SERVICE Limited; National Petroleum Investment & Management Services (NAPIMS) and Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
According to the lawmakers, NNPC allegedly directed all the heads of the 17 subsidiaries invited to the public hearing not to honour the invitation sent by the House Committee on Public Accounts, in breach of extant legislations and provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
According to the a letter with Reference No: HR/PAC/SCO5/9NASS/PARA.5/001 dated 20th December, 2019, addressed to the NNPC Group Managing Director, the House had during its plenary session of Tuesday, 10th December, 2019 mandated the Public Accounts Committee to conduct an in-depth investigative hearing on the deliberate and reckless refusal of non-Treasury funded agencies of government to be audited by the oAuGF for the period under review, with the view to ensure compliance with the provisions of Sections 80, 81, 85, 88 and 89 of the 1999 as well as Sections 15, 18, 20, 22, 24 and 25 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
In its second letter dated: 24th December, 2019 with Ref. No: HR/PAC/SCOS/9NASS/PARA.5/064 signed by its Chairman, Hon. Wole Oke and separately addressed to the NNPC Group Managing Director, and heads of various subsidiary agencies, requested for copies of approved budget (both appropriation and internally generated revenue between 2014 and 2018; audited account and management account; budget performance report; evidence of remittance of audited accounts to the Auditor-General of the Federation; evidence of remittance of internally generated revenue and or operating surplus to Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) account to the Committee ahead of the public hearing.
In its third letter with Reference No: HR/PAC/SCOS/HR.252/12/2019/001, dated 10th January, 2020 and addressed separately to the NNPC Group Managing Director and heads of the 17 subsidiaries, invited them to “cause appearance before the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, 30th January, 2020 at 10:00am.”
In its response to the Committee’s invitation to the investigative public hearing, PPMC via a letter Reference No: PPMC/HQ/MD/11.01 dated 24th January, 2020 and signed by Mohammed S. Umar, noted that: “The letter from NNPC Corporate headquarters on subject stipulating that NNPC headquarters and all subsidiaries of NNPC including PPMC have a consolidated Group Audited Accounts that is centrally submitted to the Auditor General for the Federation in line with NNPC Act.”
But in its fourth letter with Reference No: HR/PAC/SCOS/HR.252/12/2019/212 dated 24th January, 2020 addressed to the NNPC Group Managing Director announced a new date for the NNPC Group Managing Director and heads of the 17 subsidiaries to appear on Tuesday, 4th February, 2020, urging that “you are to come along with officers who are familiar with the issues at stake and may assist you provide answers to any question that could arise during the hearing.”
However, in its response to the Committee’s inquiry, PPMC via a letter with Reference No: PPMC/HQ/MD/1.01 dated 31st January, 2020 signed by Mohammed S. Umar stated that: “A details submission was received and acknowledged in your office via a letter from the office of the NNPC chief Finance Officer (CFO) on the 27th of January, 2020.
The committee in its fifth letter with Reference No: HR/PAC/SCO5/HR.252/12/2019/275 dated 4th February, 2020 while acknowledging the receipt of the PPMC’s letters with Ref. No: PPMC/HQ/MD/11.01 and PPMC/PPMC/HQ/MD/1.01 dated 24th and 31st January, 2020, observed that consolidated group audited accounts centrally submitted on behalf of NNPC and all subsidiaries to the oAuGF, is insufficient evidence to the Committee.
To this end, the Committee urged the PPMC Managing Director to: Take notice that the Committee shall no longer condone your refusal to honour civil invitation. Be warned that unless you honour this last invitation, the Committee may recourse to its legislative powers under Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and extant laws to compel your appearance.
Worried by the repeated disregard for the Parliament, the Committee had via a 3-page letter dated 11th February, 2020 and addressed to the NNPC Group Managing Director and Chief Finance Officer, acknowledged the receipt of a letter with Reference No: CFO/11.04 which detailed the response of the NNPC Chief Finance Officer, reaffirmed its stance for the NNPC Group Managing Director and heads of all the subsidiaries to submit relevant documents and appear before the Committee and give account of their stewardship.
While citing the provisions of Sections 85(4), 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which empower both the oAuGF and House of Representatives to carry out investigation into any matter or conduct of affairs of any person, Ministry, Authority, Government Departments, etc, Hon. Oke said: “In view of the foregoing the Committee wished to restate its initial request for the production/submission of documents as it relates to the subsidiaries of the Corporation and to emphasize that the Committee has powers to demand for any paper, book, record or document in possession of any person. The reasons advanced by Umar Ajiya Isa, Chief Financial Officer, are not tenable and do not take cognizance of the constitutional role and powers of the Committee.”
However, in its response to the Committee’s request, NNPC via a letter with Reference No: GGM/GPAD/07 dated February 19, 2020 signed by Samson Makoji, on behalf of the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, said: “We regrettably state that the GMD NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, the Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Umar Ajiya, and other key Executives of the NNPC have undertaken a compelling official trip out of the country geared towards the strategic interest of the economy of the nation.
While giving update on the development, members of the House Committee on Public Accounts, on Friday unanimously resolved to invoke relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution and Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2018 on the NNPC and it’s 17 subsidiaries to appear before the Committee unfailingly on the various Audit queries of the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation immediately.