*The Senate committee says suspended CBN Governor Sanusi lied*
The Nigerian Senate has rejected claims by the suspended governor of the Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi, that at least $20 billion (N3.2 trillion) in oil receipts were not paid into the government treasury by state oil company, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The Senate’s finance committee, which probed the allegation, said Wednesday it found no evidence indicating that the huge sum was diverted or stolen, and described Mr. Sanusi’s claim as “incorrect” and “misleading”.
“There was never any unremitted $49.8 billion,” the committee headed by Ahmed Makarfi, said. The report will be discussed on a later date by the entire Senate.
In a leaked memo to President Goodluck Jonathan September 2013, Mr. Sanusi said the Central Bank had found out that as much as $49.8 billion oil receipts had been cornered by state officials.
He later admitted the figure was less, but said it would not be less than $20 billion. The federal government denied funds were missing.
But the government admitted it could not account for $10.8 billion. A meeting between the CBN, finance ministry, petroleum ministry and other officials, failed to reconcile that figure.
Mr. Sanusi was later removed from office by President Jonathan in February, accused of “financial recklessness”, in a move many saw as the government’s victimization of a daring whistle-blower.
Under intense pressure, the government announced it was commissioning an independent forensic audit of the NNPC, a government agency that constantly comes under allegations of graft- many of them investigated.
Despite ordering audit firm, PriceWatersCooper, to carry out the probe, the government has insisted no funds were missing.
In a recent televised interview, Mr. Jonathan said if such an amount, nearly the size of Nigeria’s entire budget, was missing, the United States of America, would have known.
The Senate conducted a series on hearings between January and March, to trace the funds.
While the government failed to account for the outstanding $10.8 billion for days, leading to repeated reschedule of the Senate hearing, the NNPC and the petroleum ministry later claimed the money formed part of subsidy payment for petrol and kerosene, and cost for oil pipeline maintenance.
Documents backing those claims took weeks to surface, prompting the finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who could not vouch for them, to call for a forensic audit.
The outcome of the audit is expected in two months, the minister said recently.
But the Senate committee said Wednesday its own findings proved that Mr. Sanusi’s claims were misleading.
The committee accepted altogether the explanations of the NNPC and the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, saying it could not establish how the figure of US$49.8 billion was arrived at in the first instance.
The lawmakers criticised Mr. Sanusi’s varying figures as showing that his claim was “misleading” and “incorrect”.
The committee also called for the scrapping of fuel subsidy.