Act on NEITI reports
“The core legal mandate for NEITI [is] to (i) ensure due process and transparency in the payments made by all extractive industries companies to the Federal Government and statutory recipients; (ii) monitor and ensure accountability in the revenue receipts of the Federal Government from extractive industries companies; (iii) eliminate all forms of corrupt practices in the determination, payments, receipts and posting of revenue accruing to the Federal Government from extractive industries companies; (iv) ensure transparency and accountability by Government in the application of resources from payments from extractive industries companies; and (v) ensure conformity with the principles of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.”
NEITI “each financial year appoints independent auditors for the purpose of auditing the total revenue which accrued to the Federal Government for that year from extractive industries companies in order to determine the accuracy of the payments and receipts.” Based on the completed independent audits, NEITI has calculated that the NNPC and the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) owe the Federation Account oil and gas incomes amounting to US$21.8billion and N316 billion, which are made up of NLNG dividends paid between 2000 and 2014, taxes and sales and divestments of oil assets in 2009-2011. The NEITI Act stipulates that (a) the independent audit reports be submitted with comments of the extractive industries company, and (b) “The Auditor-General of the Federation shall not later than three months after the submission of the audit report to the National Assembly, publish any comment made or action taken by Government on the audit reports.” There is no evidence of any objection by NNPC, NPDC and/or the Presidency to NEITI’s reports, which gives credence to the fact that the stated sums (which amount to N7.0 trillion at the 2017 Budget exchange rate) are being withheld from the Federation Account.
Accordingly, the Executive Secretary of NEITI has demanded that the withheld oil and gas receipts be paid into the FA for appropriation to help ease the economy out of recession. It will be vacuous to interpose that the funds continue to be withheld because the annual budgets are predicated on crude oil rather than gas export receipts. In any case, notwithstanding the faulty payment method adopted, the 2015 NLNG dividends were released to the tiers of government last year.
While NEITI regularly reports to the Presidency and the National Assembly, both arms of government have curiously shown little interest in the report. But they found common ground on the eve of the preparation of the 2017 budget when the Senate President proposed that part of the NNPC stake in the NLNG be sold to raise $20 billion towards financing the budget (an amount that roughly matches the $21.8 billion being withheld from the FA). Apparently, despite the seeming unending disagreement between the two arms of government, the leadership of the Presidency and National Assembly had perfected plans to parcel out NLNG shares among themselves for free before pushing in the withheld sum as the make-believe “realised proceed” from the sale of the natural gas assets. Organised labour and civil society groups should wake up and stop the planned daylight stealing of NNPC asset. The NLNG shares should not be sold.
The adoption of the NEITI recommendation will pave the way for a feasible budget financing and exit from the recession. Recall that the Treasury Single Account (TSA) had by last fortnight netted N35.2 trillion. The NNPC does not yet contribute to the TSA. By adding the withheld N7.0 trillion and the TSA takings, there would be at least N12.2 trillion, which is enough to deliver ex-post budget surplus. Provided there is the absorptive capacity, any accessed foreign loans would be extra. Given that state of affairs, the economy could be engineered out of recession.
But suppose the N316 billion and $21.8 billion already established to be in government coffers by NEITI reports, has developed wings. The EFCC should then be directed to immediately arraign and diligently prosecute those with soiled hands in court. Meanwhile, the NNPC should be part and parcel of the TSA. Also funds in the TSA should be expended on budgeted government commitments as they mature.
Now, in addition to what is being done, NEITI should urgently consult global EITI for the best practice handling of currencies paid to government. Federation Account beneficiaries are statutory recipients of payments from extractive industries companies. The requisite form of payment due to the statutory recipients should be in the very currencies earned to set the stage for their proper conversion to the domestic currency and so guarantee overall national prosperity. Contrarily, the CBN has over the years been withholding proceeds due to statutory recipients and substituting apex bank deficit financing for foreign currency earnings thereby destroying the Nigerian economy. Surely, extractive industries export earnings should never inflict economic curse, which has been Nigeria’s odd experience.