Oby Ezekwesili challenges Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala to account for missing $10.8billion oil money

Former Vice President of the World Bank, Oby Ezekwesili, has taken the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to task over the sloppy manner the government has handled the issue of the ‘missing’ $49.8billion oil money.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, had, in a memo to President Goodluck Jonathan accused the NNPC of diverting huge oil revenue that should be paid to the federation account.

Mr. Sanusi had alleged that the NNPC systematically diverted more than 76 per cent of revenues realised from crude oil sales between January 2012 and July 2013, paying only 24 per cent of the proceeds from crude oil sales within the period into the federation account.

Later, at the end of a purported reconciliation meeting with the NNPC and other agencies, the CBN governor and Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala claimed the bulk of the money was not missing, but that about $10.8billion was yet to be accounted for.

The NNPC claimed, last week, that the missing $10.8 billion was spent on oil subsidy payments, repairs of vandalized oil pipeline facilities and operational costs.

However, the NNPC’s explanation appeared not to have convinced some Nigerians, who feel that the manner the issue was handled by the government left much to be desired.

Mrs. Ezekwesili, who said she was one of such Nigerians dissatisfied with the explanations offered by the NNPC, took to her tweeter handle, @obyezeks, at about 4:44 p.m. Nigerian time, on Wednesday, to express disappointment and frustration at the NNPC’s lack of accountability.

The former minister of education, popularly known as ‘Madam Due Process’ for her consistent insistence on transparency and accountability, in a series of tweets urged Nigerians to stand up and demand accountability over the matter.

She challenged Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to personally shoulder the responsibility of accounting to Nigerians about the ‘missing money, pointing out that “a good place to start would be if the Coo (Coordinating) Minister of Economy can sign off on NNPC’s breakdown of the “missing $10Billion”.

She said, “Madam Minister, @NOIweala, can we please v (verify?) your signed off breakdown of the “missing $10Billion” that NNPC must account for?,” she asked. “It would help raise confidence in the administration if you! @NOIweala took up the accounting for the “missing $10 Billion”.

She asked her former colleague in the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC, to take advantage of her presentation of the details of the 2014 budget on Monday to also give the breakdown of the ‘missing $10.8billion’ oil money. “Since you @NOIweala will be presenting #Budget2014 breakdown on the 22nd. Also provide break down of “missing $10Billion. We cannot continue to have an NNPC that behaves as if it is independent of our Ministry of Finance. Citizens must insist!,” she said.

Justifying her demand for Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to take personal responsibility to render account, Mrs. Ezekwesili noted that “statutorily, the NNPC must render accounts to her, @NOIweala, as our finance minister. If she signs off, we ought to assume all is well.”

“… until NNPC realizes that Citizens will not believe their accounting without @NOIweala …. Signing off the appropriateness and accuracy of those “operational expenditure”, they will repeat bad behaviour again”, she said.

She challenged other Nigerians who are worried over the issue to respond to her tweet. “If as a Citizen, you are as vexed as I am at the way the issue of “missing $10Billion” has been handled tweet @ me”.

The former minister continued, “Citizens who allow politicians to set the agenda while they just react have themselves to blame for lack of tangible result from governance.

“The day we begin to see tangible results from governance is the day Citizens master agenda setting around the deep challenges of our society.

“Is there yet a detailed breakdown of the “missing” $10Billion that NNPC said it used for “XYZZY & Operational Expenses?”.

Apparently drawing the attention of members of the National Assembly to what their role should be in resolving the issue, Mrs. Ezekwesili queried: “Can the NASS gain the confidence of citizens by ending “tales” of this kind where $10 Billion is so lightly esteemed?”

“Does NNPC know that some African countries sweat to raise $5Million to stay afloat? And here, $10Billion is waved off?”

Mrs. Ezekwesili also took a swipe at the media for not paying sufficient attention to the matter, saying “When citizens and media act unperturbed by the “murky” accounting for the “missing $10Billion, the rest of the world hiss!”.

Drawing the attention of the NNPC to her campaign for accountability on the issue, she said: “Hello, NNPC! Here is one Citizen that demands accurate accounting for the “missing” $10Billion. What happened to it? What?”

The handling of the controversy by the government has irked a lot of Nigerians, who feel there are more to the explanations so far given by the parties involved.

For the Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Abdulmumini Jubrin, who was commenting on the issue during a recent television interview last week, the NNPC’s explanation on the missing billions is unacceptable.

Credit: Bassey Udo/Premium Times