A new report on Thursday said despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s attempt at ensuring transparency in the oil sector, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, still withholds billions in oil revenues from the government account.
The report by the Natural Resource Governance Institute, titled “NNPC still holds blank check” said that within the first six months of the Buhari administration, the NNPC withheld over $4.2 billion (about N824.7 billion) out of a total of $6.3 billion (N1.24 trillion) revenues realised from crude oil sales in the second half of 2015.
The withheld revenues represented about 66 per cent of the total revenue – $1.4 billion earnings from Nigeria’s regular crude oil exports for the period; $3.4 billion from domestic crude oil sales, and $1.5 billion from oil sold from the corporation’s upstream subsidiary, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC oil fields.
The report said only $2.1 billion (about N413.7 billion) was transferred to the Federation Account.
The group said the unremitted revenues for the six months was about 14 per cent more than the amount withheld by the corporation under the Goodluck Jonathan administration in the first half of 2015, and about 12 per cent higher than the share withheld in 2013 and 2014.
The report said the figure of unremitted oil revenues in 2015 contrasted sharply with 2005 figures, which showed the NNPC remitted about 68 per cent of its total oil sale earnings to the Federation Account and kept only 32 per cent that year.
The report said while part of the withheld funds was used for servicing Nigeria’s share of the joint venture operating obligations, the NNPC did not fully explain what the other retained revenues from domestic crude and NPDC oil sales were used for.
In general, the report said despite the on-going reforms in the oil sector, the NNPC under the present administration was still retaining a major share of oil sale earnings and spending at will.
Some of the reforms by the Buhari government, the report noted, have cut the number of passive, well connected middlemen that pocketed billions of oil revenues, while the administration has cancelled costly, unbalanced NNPC swap contracts as well as seek more efficient replacements.
The report lamented that recent announcements on NNPC reforms and the latest drafts of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, failed to adequately address how NNPC and the government would share future oil revenues
“Until government establishes a clear, legally enforceable rule governing which revenues NNPC can keep and how they can be spent, oil sector corruption and waste could return to their prior devastating levels once the president (Buhari) leaves, or prices rise,” the report noted.
While encouraging government to push ahead with its reform plans for the oil sector, NRGI stressed the need for NNPC to adopt new financial controls and transparency measures for its subsidiaries, especially bordering on the several billion revenues retained each year from NPDC operations and its oil trading and marketing subsidiaries.
The Institute also called for the immediate replacement of the 445,000 barrels per day crude oil allocation for domestic refining with a fit-for-purpose mechanism for supplies to the country’s four refineries.
“The government should move to curb the corporation’s discretionary, unaccountable use of much-needed public funds. Until the government instates clear rules for NNPC financing, both the controversies and the underlying revenue leakages will persist,” the report said.
Describing the NPDC as one of the Nigerian petroleum sector’s “great black boxes”, the report said some of the oil from the company’s fields went to its strategic alliance partners, two of which were paid in oil for purportedly shouldering the company’s financial obligations.
From the production of an average of 30,000 barrels per day of Okono grade crude during the period, the report said NNPC retained all earnings ( about $12.3 billion over the past decade) from the offshore Oil Mining Lease (OML) 119 owned wholly by NPDC.