As the former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke prepares to stand trial in the United Kingdom for alleged corrupt offenses in Nigeria, reasons have been proffered why she or any other individual was not indicted in the infamous missing $49.8 billion proceeds to the federation account.
The former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi Wednesday told finance journalists in Abuja why the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke was not indicted by the committee that investigated the unremitted $49.8bn revenue by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Makarfi who served as former governor of Kaduna state was the chairman of the committee that set up by the seventh senate to investigate the $48.9bn unremitted oil revenue following allegations raised by the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
Makarfi said the terms of reference given by the Senate to the committee, only mandated the committee to determine if the said amount was actually missing and unremitted to the federation account.
However, after the committee’s investigation, he stated that “there was no evidence to show that the former minister was involved in the missing fund.”
According to Makarfi, “some people expected us to indict Diezani, she must have committed some other offenses but when you come to the issue of the revenue we were probing as regards that period, the NNPC never presented any document she tampered with or approved anything. Everything the NNPC did, they said they were the ones responsible and they are the one’s accounting.”
He then questioned that “on what basis will you go to an individual to indict that person. Nobody presented any memo, internal or whatever to show that for the period our probe covered, she gave any instruction as regards the missing revenue.”
He said those accusing the committee of a cover-up were being economical with the truth, adding that in some of its recommendations, the NNPC was required to make refunds of over $5 billion to the coffers of government.
Specifically, Makarfi gave reporters the copy of the report and it was recommended that “NNPC should refund and remit to the federation account the sum of $262 million being expenses it could not satisfactorily defend.”
He dismissed claims in some quarters that the committee was compromised since it did not indict any official of government as a result of the unremitted revenue.
The former Kaduna state governor and senator blamed the inability of the committee to indict individuals to the fact that “the report of the forensic audit conducted by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation was not made available to the committee contrary to the earlier understanding between the committee and the then Auditor-General for the Federation, Mr Samuel Ukura that the final recommendation of the committee should be based on the forensic audit report conducted by the Office of the Auditor-General”.
Brandishing the copy of the report before journalists, Makarfi noted that “we were given an assignment that was very specific, which was that $48.9 billion was not remitted into the federation account and in the course of doing our job, we were given additional task to find out how N700 million was being spent daily to subsidize kerosene”.
According to him “these were the two specific assignments given to us. For the first one we were to determine the amount that entered the federation account within a specified period of time and it didn’t have to do with so many aspects of NNPC operations such as strategic alliances, contracts, and allocation of blocks”.
Makarfi then disclosed that “at the end of the day we came out with findings that there was no certainty as to the amount not being remitted, as the CBN was not even sure how much was not remitted. As to the issue of indicating anybody, we didn’t indicate anybody because a forensic audit was yet to be conducted then.”
He explained further that “we had an understanding with the Auditor-General for the Federation that he will conduct a forensic audit which would be forwarded to our committee and we indicated this in our report to the Senate that when we receive the forensic audit report we will make specific recommendations on matters that have to do with individuals.
“Maybe because we were leaving government, all our communications to the auditor general were ignored and we communicated to the Senate that we were unable to get this audit report from the auditor general and our hands were tied.”
Defending the integrity of his committee’s report, Makarfi noted that “when the National Economic Council appointed Price Water House to do the same audit but with a wider scope, their report and our own was not far apart. Mind you they had longer terms of reference and a longer period to cover.”
Regarding the controversial kerosene subsidy at that time, Senator Makarfi stated that “because of the sensitivity of the matter, I sought the permission of the Senate President that I wanted to find out the truth even from the then President (Goodluck Jonathan) if he approved it (subsidy).”
“He arranged it and I asked specific questions whether he was aware that subsidy on kerosene was being paid and he confirmed in the affirmative.”