The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has warned against the politicization of the alleged diverted revenue of $49.8bn (N8 trillion) by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The apex bank was reacting to the publication of a memo written by its governor, Mr. Sanusi Lamido to President Goodluck Jonathan in which he complained about the failure of the NNPC to remit the said amount to the Federation Account in contravention of extant laws.
In the letter, Sanusi alleged that the said amount represented 76 per cent of the value of crude oil lifting between January 2012 and July 2013.
However, the corporation on Tuesday refuted the claims that it diverted the said amount, adding that the allegation by the CBN governor was borne out of misunderstanding of the workings of the oil and gas industry and the modality for remitting crude oil sales revenue into the Federation Account.
But in a statement on Thursday by the Director, Corporate Communications Department of CBN, Mr Ugochukwu Okoroafor, the apex bank said while it would neither confirm or deny the origin of the said letter, saying it considers any discussions by it on the alleged letter to be inappropriate.
However, the Bank said due to the momentum the matter is gathering in the public space and its propensity to assume a political dimension, it was going to make some clarifications.
The apex bank affirmed that it is statutorily mandated to establish price stability, protect the external value of the Naira, manage the external reserves of the Federation and ensure the smooth functioning of the nation’s financial system as well as act as adviser to the President on economic matters.
“The capacity of the Bank to perform its role effectively is strengthened or undermined by the extent to which the nation is able to increase foreign exchange earnings and savings from these earnings, thus boosting the Excess Crude Savings Account, raising reserve levels, providing currency stability and moderating interest rates with limited risks to inflation and financial stability” the statement said.
It said that in the performing this role, “it is natural for the CBN to be concerned at the low level of accretion to reserves and the Excess Crude Account, inspite of strong international oil prices, especially as Nigeria’s performance is compared with other oil producing economies.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria is aware that this concern is shared by Mr. President, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Ministers, State Governors, legislators, economists, analysts and all stakeholders involved in managing the economy and discussions on how to address the matter are being held at highest levels of Government” it added.
The CBN acknowledged that the Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Maduke had instructed the audit firm – Price Waterhouse Cooper – to audit the revenues of the NNPC, just as it affirmed the existence of a proposal to set up a technical team made up of representatives the Federal Ministry of Finance, the NNPC and the CBN to examine the sources of any revenue leakages and propose appropriate fiscal controls.
“The CBN welcomes these initiatives and believes that they represent a positive contribution to the process of improving the management of the economy, especially if they lead to greater oversight of the Finance Ministry over oil revenues and improvements in disclosure and transparency in the Oil Industry” the statement said.
While recognizing the urgent need to review fiscal terms of sharing revenues between the Federal Government and oil companies and to improve governance and transparency in the official oil sector, CBN urged for a speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, which it said would address the structure of the state-owned NNPC.
“We therefore support the effort of the Federal Government to pass a new PIB”, the apex bank reiterated.
It, therefore, urged the general public to avoid unnecessary politicization of a technical matter while awaiting the outcome of on-going consultation and reviews.