A former World Bank Vice President for Africa, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, has faulted the proposed plans by Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to conduct a forensic audit of the Federation Account to ascertain whether $20billion oil money is missing or not.
She said the firms to be contracted for the job could be compromised by those who have mismanaged oil revenue.
Instead, Mrs Ezekwezili suggested that a panel of independent experts from various countries and representatives of civil society organisations should be contacted to carry out the audit.
She recalled that when a similar crisis occurred in Iraq, a panel of independent experts was raised.
She said putting in place a panel of experts is a global trend when it is difficult to reconcile oil receipts and expenditures.
Ezekwesili, a former minister under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo said: “How can officials of the state treat issues of public revenue with such level of cynicism and levity. How did $20billion become so ordinary?
“How awful to see some reduce serious conversation on missing $20billion to what Yoruba call ‘Awada kerikeri’. No, this is not comedy”, she insisted, adding that “The depth of distrust of citizens for whatever the Federal Government says on NNPC makes the forensic audit approach unacceptable. Which audit firm? Which?” She asked.
Mrs Ezekwesili continued: “The Minister of Petroleum Resources is the chairman of NNPC Board. Her argument in overseeing a mere corporation, usurp the power of appropriation was awful.
“Sadly, the Minister of Finance stated that her ministry does not have the expertise to verify the impunity-induced expenditures by NNPC.
“Settling for forensic audit by some recruited firm of auditors will not pass the test of credibility. Issues are too weighty”.
Responding to a question, Ezekwesili said: “In 2005, when we had a similar situation on UN Oil-for-Food Programme in Iraq, a commission headed by Paul A. Volcker, was inaugurated by the then [UN] Secretary General Kofi Annan to probe the more than $60 billion deal.
“The use of Panel of Independent Experts and Civil Society Organisation representatives to investigate serious issues of this kind is global best practice. National Assembly can do same quickly.
“Again my earlier advice to the National Assembly is to constitute an independent Panel of diverse technical experts drawn globally plus representatives to scrutinize NNPC”.
She noted that the international experts will be selected “on the basis of their pedigree that they have been on such service globally.
“These experts will be drawn from different parts of the world. In this way, the investigation will not be compromised”.