The victory of General Muhammadu Buhari in the March 28 presidential election is already causing panic in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other Federal Government-owned companies in the oil/energy sector.
Officials of the companies, many of whom did not anticipate President Goodluck Jonathan’s defeat, are now under pressure to bring their accounts and oil receipts up to date for presentation to the in-coming government.
Some of the information is even expected to be made available during the transitional period in the coming days.
President Jonathan yesterday kick-started the transition by meeting with General Buhari at the State House, Abuja, even as associates of the President-elect recalled how the late President Nelson Madela of South Africa predicted,12 years ago, that Buhari would one day return to lead Nigeria as a civilian president.
It was gathered that the outgoing administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has commenced the reconciliation of crude oil production records including royalties and other funds remitted into government accounts and taxes paid to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Government expects oil records to dominate discussion at the transition committee briefings since oil is Nigeria’s financial back bone. It is a familiar terrain for Buhari who was Commissioner (as the position was designated under the military) for Petroleum Resources in the 1970s.
Lately, public interest in the finances of the NNPC has soared, sparked by an allegation by the immediate past governor of the Central Bank (CBN), Mallam Lamido Sanusi that $20 billion of its funds was missing.
For instance, he told a Senate Committee hearing on the allegation that NNPC officials were withholding large amounts of money from crude oil exports from the Federation account.
He said that during the period 2012-2013, the NNPC sliced off 76% of crude oil proceeds – a total of N8 trillion ($48.9 billion).
Sanusi was later suspended and is now the Emir of Kano.
His predecessor at the CBN, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, said in a different allegation that about N30tr was either missing or unaccounted for by the Federal Government.
An audit report prepared by Price Water House Coopers on NNPC finances showed that less than $2 billion was missing.
Government asked the corporation to pay the money forthwith into its account.
An oil/gas sector source said yesterday that a major issue being addressed by the outgoing administration is how to put oil records in proper perspective because the new government will be interested.
“There is panic in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other subsidiaries on oil receipts,”the source said.
“Already, officials of some of these agencies have been working round the clock to reconcile oil records in order to be able to face the Buhari transition team.
“Some of these agencies might also meet with FIRS to make sure that the records tally. No one expected a Buhari presidency but it has now come. This requires working round the clock to give full account of oil production and revenue.”
Another source said: “Feelers indicate that Nigerians would want cogent explanation on the controversial $20 billion.
“So, the development in the oil sector is key to the work of the transition committee.”
Sources also said that some of the international oil companies (IOCs) are prepared to make their records available to Buhari.
“You can see that if any attempt is made to pad the records by any agency, the IOCs will not be part of it. This is why it is necessary for every official to be straightforward.
“Some of the IOCs are willing to release the records in their care to assist the government to put things in order in NNPC and other agencies.”
On Mandela’s prediction, Buhari’s associates said it had been a massive motivation all these years.
One of the associates said that shortly after losing the 2003 presidential poll to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mandela had a one-hour engagement on the phone with Buhari.
Mandela asked Buhari not to lose hope about ruling the country.
Mandela said: “I spent 27 years in jail and came out to become South Africa’s President. You can still be president.
“Since the election of Buhari, what Mandela said 12 years ago has been resuscitated. We were all excited when we saw a copy of the newspaper which reported Mandela’s advice to Buhari. Though he is dead, his prediction has come to pass.
“This has confirmed his sage status. His golden words were part of those behind the resilience of Buhari. We are hopeful that the President-elect will serve the nation like Mandela did because they share many things in common, especially selfless service.”