NNPC’s $137m stuck in banks, Senate panel alleges

The Senate Committee on Petroleum (Gas) at the plenary on Wednesday said there was “no cause for alarm” on the allegation that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was running a secret joint venture account.

The committee said the dollars in the account were stuck in three banks due to the implementation of the Single Treasury Account by the Federal Government.

The senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye, had on Tuesday alleged that the NNPC and some joint venture companies were operating the account under the name, Brass LNG Limited.

Melaye further alleged that the account, which was supposed to be domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria, was with Keystone Bank, had no Bank Verification Number and had a balance of $137m as of Tuesday.

Moving a motion on the matter at the plenary on Wednesday, Melaye said, “The Senate notes that the Brass LNG was incorporated by the Corporate Affairs Commission on 9th of December, 2003 and is limited by shares of $1m.

“The Senate observes that the shareholders of this company are the Federal Government (NNPC) represented by Mr. Funsho Kukpolokun, with $490,000 shares; Philip Brass Limited, whose address is in the Cayman Island, British West Indies, represented by Mr. R. L. Smith, with a share capital of $170,000; Eni International B.V., with address in Amsterdam, Netherland, represented by Mr. A. Forzoli, with share of $170,000; while the fourth shareholder is Chevron Texaco Brass LNG Limited, with address in Bemuda, represented by Mr. J. R. Pryor, with a share of $170,000.

“The Senate observes that from the CAC records, the following are directors of the company among other foreigners: Gauis Obaseki Jackson, former Group Managing Director, NNPC; Yakubu Andrew, former GMD, NNPC; Ibogomo Gbeyansa, staff member of NNPC; Dawa Joseph Thlama, staff member of NNPC; Ige David, staff member of NNPC; and Mr. Buba Mohamman.”

He added, “The Senate observes that from the memorandum of understanding, the Brass LNG is supposed to be a Joint Venture Company, with the NNPC having the controlling shares and their account domiciled with the CBN.

“The Senate is surprised that the account of this company is with Keystone Bank opened on the 1st of August, 2012, with account number 1005825168, a USA domiciliary account with a closing balance of $137,086,462:54 currently, while the sum of $648,179,487 was recorded as the account’s last inflow on the 19th of September, 2016, and a withdrawal of $4m was effected on the 18th of November, 2016 without BVN.”

Melaye stated that there was an urgent need to define the position of the company and its operations, management and mandate in order to halt “this seeming corruption.”

Seconding the motion, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Gas), Senator Bassey Akpan, however, said his committee was already investigating the issue.

Akpan said the monies were not only with Keystone Bank, “we also have some money stuck in Diamond Bank.”

According to him, when the Federal Government started to run the Single Treasury Account system, many Deposit Money Banks became insolvent as many account balances in dollars were stuck in the banks.

Akpan added, “The said withdrawal of $4m was when the Presidency directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to step into the matter. The CBN monitors the funds. The only money that left the account, which was about $3m, was transferred to the TSA. Based on our enquiries from the CBN, this account has a BVN and recognised signatories. Mr. Gaius Obaseki, is a former GMD of the NNPC and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Brass LNG.

“So, not only is the money stuck in Keystone Bank, a similar amount of money is also stuck in Diamond Bank and one other bank.

“I want to say that there is no cause for alarm.”

The Senate unanimously resolved to mandate the Committee on Public Accounts to jointly work with the Akpan-led committee “to carry out a holistic investigation into the activities of the Brass LNG and the complicity therein as well as the level of corruption that has taken place and report back within four weeks.”


Credits/Sources: www.punchng.com