FG in urgent need of $2bn debt owed by oil firms, says NEITI
The Executive Secretary, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Orji Ogbonnaya Orji has tasked oil and gas companies to pay over $2 billion in debt owed to the Federal Government, saying the government is in dire need of funds to fund its several projects.
Orji gave the charge, yesterday, at the NEITI-Companies Forum sensitisation on Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) validation.
He said companies should do everything possible to pay the respective agencies their due taxes, royalties and rents urgently saying: “The country needs the money right now.
“I am here to consult with leaders of the industry because the NEITI report currently, is channelled at helping the government to recover revenues that are owed.
“If we have over $2 billion that is outstanding, it is important we sensitise those who are owing to pay up because the government needs the money right now. We have moved from disclosing what is owed to what needs to be paid on time so that the government will have some money to fund projects. That is the target of NEITI at the moment, using our report to hold accountable companies that are owing the government.
“We must also acknowledge the fact that companies are here for business and we are doing everything to support them. The issue of tax and concessions and royalties are statutory obligations that a good business organisation must be sensitive to. We don’t want any outstanding debt because the government is looking for money.”
Orji also pleaded with the companies to comply with the directives of the agency, especially the NEITI validation – a quality assurance mechanism that is conducted every three years – to ascertain the level of compliance with its standards will be held in November.
He said the country could lose its membership if it defaulted on its responsibility.
Also speaking, the Executive Director at Oil Producers’ Trade Section (OPTS) and Chairman Companies, Bunmi Toyobo, said while NEITI reels out names of companies who owe the government, payments made by companies should also be acknowledged.
“There should be a better understanding of the debt statements made in the media – if these are dues or outstanding. NEITI is supposed to be an impartial player in government. When they say companies have liability, they also need to mention those companies that have contributed certain billions of dollars to the government coffers,” he stated.
Toyobo also called for improvement in NEITI processes to boost the growth of businesses and profitability.
He called for partnership between the companies and NEITI for the growth of the nation’s economy, noting that both parties should see each other as a partner to grow and add value.
He emphasised the operational challenges affecting companies and their operations, which he said include kidnapping, crude oil theft and Joint Venture (JV) cash call arrears.
Toyobo noted that over 80 per cent of oil produced in Nigeria is lost to theft, which has affected operations, adding that some companies have not produced for over one year due to losses.