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House wants N2.6tr debt by oil firms recovered

The House of Representatives yesterday asked the Federal Government to recover about N2.6 trillion allegedly owed it by 77 oil and gas companies operating in the country.

The House also set up an Adhoc committee headed by its Deputy Chief Whip,. Nkiruka Onyejeocha, to reconcile what the federal government and oil companies owe each other as joint venture cash calls.

Besides, it called for a proper inventory of the assets and liabilities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and its subsidies before their transfer to the newly incorporated NNPC Limited.

The House, therefore, directed the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to provide the data needed to facilitate the recovery of the debts from the oil firms.

The requests were made during debates on two separate motions on notice by Ahmed Munir and Ibrahim Isiaka.

Munir quoted a report by NEITI that indicated that the 77 oil and gas companies was indebted to the government to the tune of N2.6 trillion.

The debt, according to him, accrued from the failure of the oil companies to remit Petroleum Profit Tax, Company Income Tax, Education Tax, Value Added Tax, Withholding Tax, Royalties, Penalties, and Concession on rentals to the government.

He expressed concern that such a huge debt was being overlooked by the government at a critical time when the country needs money to fund its annual budget.

The lawmaker said the debts if recovered, could be used to service some government debts and at least 16.2 per cent of the 2022 budget deficit.

The House consequently resolved to set up an Adhoc committee made up of members with knowledgeable backgrounds on the operation of the oil and gas sector to conduct the investigation.

The members of the Onyejeocha -led panel are Uju Kingsley, Ifeanyi Momah, Dennis Idahosa, Eta Mboma, Taiwo Oluga, Abbas Adigun, Abdullahi Ibrahim Halims, Benjamin Mzondu, Victor Mela, Nazif Sani, Musa Fagangawo, Vincent Ofumelu, Ahmed Munir, Hamisu Ibrahim, and Obinna Chidoka.

Speaker. Femi Gbajabiamila said it was alarming that such a huge debt was left outstanding. ”If it is true that such debt is outstanding, then it is unfortunate. We must take steps to recover it,” Gbajabiamila said.

During the debate on Isiaka’s motion, the House said the inventory would help to ensure a legitimate transition process from NNPC to NNPC Limited.

Isiaka said the NNPC was empowered by law to manage the joint venture between the government and several foreign multinational corporations with assets and interests on land, swamp, continental shelf, and deep waters.

He explained that in 1988, the NNPC had 12 strategic business units covering the entire spectrum of oil industry operations, including exploration and production, gas development, refining, distribution, petrochemicals engineering, and commercial investments.

The lawmaker added that in line with Section 53 (1) of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), the NNPC Limited was registered and incorporated as a limited liability company with an initial capital of N200 billion, which was regarded as the highest share capital holding in Nigeria.

He said further that Section 53 (3) of the PIA, vests ownership of the NNPC Limited on the Federal Government through the Ministry of Finance, which are both financed by the Nigerian People, but recognises NNPC limited as an agent.

Isiaka stressed that Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution empowers the National Assembly to carry out investigations into matters to which it has powers to make laws.

He maintained that there was the need to boost investors’ confidence and enhance transparency and efficiency in the supply chain management of the newly established NNPC Limited owing to the outstanding credit sales and the much-needed revenues by the government to support annual budgets.