By Olusola Daniel
I have followed, with keen interest, the controversy surrounding the unaccounted federation account funds involving the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). It will be recalled that the CBN Governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi caused a stir when he raised an alarm in a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan that the NNPC failed to remit crude oil proceeds amounting to $49.8 billion into the Federation Account from January 2012 to July 2013.
However, when he was summoned before the Senate Committee on Finance in December to give insight into the letter he wrote on the controversial missing money, Sanusi recanted saying $12 billion, and not $49.8billion, was the amount discovered not to have been remitted to the account within the period. That was after a joint reconciliation committee, of which he was part, had resolved the figure to $10.8 billion. Now, the CBN Governor’s position has changed again. This time, he has put the figure at $20billion.
Between the vociferous rebuttals of the NNPC and the disturbing inconsistencies of the CBN, we find reassurance in the matured and empirical approach with which the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy (CME), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has handled the matter. Apart from having dealt with the issue at meetings of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) long before the CBN Governor even raised the matter, it was the painstaking work of the Finance Ministry that reconciled the initial $49.8 billion mentioned by the CBN as unaccounted funds to the $10.8 billion which was accepted by all parties as the basis for further discussion.
Since the CBN and NNPC have continued to be at loggerheads, with the one insisting on $20 billion as funds yet to be accounted for, and the other vigorously asserting that it has accounted for virtually all the funds, aunty Ngozi has graciously recommended that the best way to get to the truth and reassure Nigerians who have been expressing strong opinions on the issue would be to set up an independent body that would do a forensic audit of all the documents and claims.
Evidently, this should provide Nigerians with a definitive verdict on the controversy. We would recall that a similar forensic audit was deployed to investigate subsidy claims and this produced good results and a better tighter process against fraud. With this firm stance on fairness, transparency and accountability maintained by the Finance Minister, we can rest assured that the reconciliation process will be completed with honesty and integrity, devoid of undue encumbrance from partisan interests.
Olusola Daniel is a political observer and advocate for community development. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria and tweets from @OlusDaniel.
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