President Muhammadu Buhari has moved to fulfill his promise to investigate the dealings of the immediate past administration led by Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in a bid to uncover any shady dealings. This is in pursuance of his ‘zero-tolerance’ stance on corruption. PMB has began with probing the oil sector and the the team in charge of the investigation are the National Economic Council (NEC) and Ad-hoc Committee on the Management of Excess Crude Account Proceeds and Accruals into the Federation Account. The team is headed by the Edo State governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.
He disclosed that the period under investigation will be from January 1, 2010 to June 30, 2015 and that the services of two international forensic audit firms will be secured to probe revenue that accrued into the Federation Account and how it was spent during that time frame.
Mr. Oshiomhole told reporters that the focus will be on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, the Nigerian Customs Service, the Central bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, among others. Also, revenue generating agencies have been invited to brief the committee, whose members also include some present governors in the country, such as, Governors Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai (Kaduna State) and Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe).
He said: “We held our first primary session today here with some of the revenue generating agencies that are supposed to remit funds to the federation account. We had a successful session with Customs, NPA, NEITI, SEC, FIRS, and quite a number of others and next week we will also hear from CBN, Ministry of Finance and Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
“For the remaining ones, we agree we are going to meet on Thursday next week, NNPC, NPDC, DPR, NIMASA and other remaining agencies. We have started the work, with the idea to hear them out, what they have been doing, with particular emphasis on revenue accruing from these organizations and whether or not these have been remitted to the Federation Account for judicious distribution. We realized that this is a task and given our mandate, even if we were professional accountants because we are sitting governors, we would not have the time to do a forensic audit which this assignment entails.
“Therefore, we have agreed in line with our mandate to appoint two reputable international audit firms to carry out a thorough forensic audit, not only of NNPC, which is more of excess crude, but other monies that accrued to the Federation Accounts. We have other revenues like bonuses, royalties, taxes, VAT that flow into the Federation Account. We are taking a holistic review of the entire process, looking at all the agencies that make contribution of funds to the federation account. We are convinced that by appointing audit firms, we will allow professionals to carry out this exercise, so that it will be free of any political coloration and also we will ensure the outcome of the investigation will .
“We have learned, we have listened and asked questions. I think we all have a clear picture of what was happening in those organizations before now. Some have information to supply and we have drawn attention to those areas, they are willing to oblige. We believe in the end, we will be able to not just establish what had happened over the period but much more important, going forward with the changes the President has promised the country. It is not going to be business as usual. He started on a clean slate and everybody knows the new rules of the game and in particular as the laws apply to the various institutions are implemented in full. So I think we started very well. We are very confident that we are going to come out with something that is going to be of immense benefits to the Nigerian people…
“Some reports were produced by PWC but in that report, the PWC expressed their frustration and pointed to the fact that they were not able to access all the information they needed and that what they were able to produce was to the extent of information that was made available to them. Audit can only be credible as much as information that was made available to auditors. The good news now is that with President Buhari, all the books will be open, no agency has any protection. Any agency that refuses to open the books then is ready to go on confrontation with the authority. The forensic audit will act on the whole truth and nothing but the truth so that all stakeholders will have basis to formulate good policies and that Nigeria will never find itself in this circle where huge sums of money are allegedly diverted and unaccounted for. Audit has become a way of life for all public institutions.”
On the time-frame chosen to be investigated, he said:
“We are focusing on a five-year circle. What we have agreed is that we are going to carry out an audit for five years from 1st January 2010 to 30th June 2015. If the audit report reveals that we need to go backward, then we can do that. But for the first instance, this is the period that we consider good. We can’t impose a time frame on them but will engage them and by Thursday we will be able to make it public. We need to listen to them and agree with them on how much time will be okay for them. We are all in a hurry to ensure that the right thing is done. The emphasis is not on time but doing thorough job.
“By next week we will meet with the big ones and we will then be able to tell you the audit firms that we have appointed. They are firms I am sure Nigerians will have confidence in. At the end of the audit we will hear them out and reconcile them with what the laws says and arrive at a position. Given the volume of work and complicated nature of issues, we agreed we need professionals to carry out the audit. It is only the professionals that can handle it. It is not good to compromise,” he concluded.
It should be recalled that Mr. Oshiomhole has been very vocal in recent times, criticizing and calling out the suspected corrupt activities of the past government that some have likened him to the “Ayo Fayose” of the PMB regime. He has especially singled out former Minister of Finance and coordinating minister for the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for his attacks.