By Sunday Ejike Benjamin
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has faulted the legal advice by the Attorney of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN) to the effect that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC), was empowered by its Act to remit only to the federation account, its net earnings after deducting cost of its operations.
The organization in the statement yesterday by its executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni said, “the advice by Adoke is patently inconsistent with the letter and spirit of Section 162 of the Constitution, which is to establish a dedicated account into which all public revenue by the Federal Government shall be paid, as well as to remove any arbitrary and non-transparent and non-accountable spending of public revenue.”
The organization also argued that, “being the supreme law of the land, the constitution is not a document to be read with levity or disdain; every section must be given its meaning.”
“It has to be emphasized that Section 162 does not exempt certain types of revenue and does not distinguish between ‘net and gross revenue’ as Adoke has attempted to do. In fact, the only exception provided for under that section are the proceeds from the personal income tax of the personnel of the armed forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force, the Ministry or department of government charged with responsibility for Foreign Affairs and the residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja,” the organization added.
The organization said, “Assuming for the sake of argument that the NNPC is required to pay into the Federation Accounts only the ‘net revenue’ and not the ‘gross revenue’ as Adoke has argued, this will still not remove the fact that the NNPC is a trustee of the public revenue collected. Therefore, as a trustee, the NNPC has a legal duty to render account to the beneficiaries (Nigerians) of the trust, if and when called upon to do so.”
The organization also said that, “We believe that arguing that the NNPC has no responsibility to remit all public revenue amounts to permitting the corporation to create something analogous to a ‘special fund.’
“We therefore ask Adoke to urgently refer the NNPC to appropriate anticorruption agencies so that the confusion around the missing $20 billion oil money can be resolved once and for all, and suspected perpetrators brought to book”.