As panel Grills NPDC, Neconde Bosses Over $471m, $34m Debts
Accuses DPR of sabotaging Buhari’s govt
By Christiana Ekpa and Umar Muhammad Puma
The House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee investigating the alleged N6trillion oil revenue leakages from January 2016 to 2017 yesterday threatened to issue an arrest warrant on the Director of the Department of Petroleum Resources, (DPR), Mr. Mordecai Baba Ladan for refusing to honour its invitation for an investigative hearing on Tuesday.
The panel, which summoned the agency’s boss to appear before it within 24hours or face arrest, also accused the DPR of sabotaging government by misleading President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the renewal of operating license of Neconde Energy Limited, despite mounting debts obligations to government by the company.
The committee, led by Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe (PDP, Cross River), had before the resolution to summon the DPR Boss, also grilled Managing Directors of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Mr. Yusuf Matashi and that of Neconde Energy limited, Frank Edozie, over an outstanding debt of $471million yet to be remitted to the federation account.
Apart from the said amount arising from a Joint Venture operations of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 42, Neconde is also said to be owing another $34million royalty debts to the DPR.
The scenario, therefore, has left members wondering why on earth the DPR should have written to the President asking for approval for the renewal of operating license of Neconde.
Chairman Jarigbe, having listened to the submission by Mr. Edozie, CEO of Neconde, accused the DPR of misleading the president by making things look like Neconde has committed a crime by refusing to appear to state its own role in the manipulation of the President.
He said the company, being a business entity, has not committed any crime in line with the agreement, apart from its inability to pay outstanding royalty; adding whatever would legally aid its operation would seem attractive to it, which was the role DPR played.
Members also wondered what role the DPR is playing by allowing both Neconde and Next oil, both subsidiaries of Obi Jackson Group who are debtors to the Federal Government, to set up an audit exercise to audit one another with a view to determining how much they are owing government.
Clarifying issues with regards to the $471miion debt between Neconde and NPDC, Mr. Edozie told the panel that while the $471 is not real until a value for money audit is done, the said debt is between NPDC and Neconde, and not money meant for the federation account.
This assertion was, however, rejected by members who informed him that whatever is owed to NPDC, the NNPC or DPR all belongs to the federation account.
Chairman Jargbe, again, noted that while the JV agreement allows Neconde to audit itself, the period of reconciliation cannot be left open-ended, adding that the debt has dragged for too long.
The MD of NPDC, Mr. Matashi had told the panel that the $471million was a joint venture cash call obligation that was yet to be paid by Neconde flowing from its operation of OML42 in which the NPDC has 55 percent equity, leaving Neconde who acquired its own equity in 2012 with 45 percent.
He said while it had to wait to the value for money audit before pushing the payment was because the responsibility of auditing the JV account rests on the operating partner.
However, in order to clear the issues involved, the panel insisted on the presence of the DPR, as the agency regulating both companies, to explain why things have remain unsolved for so long.