WHAT would the authorities do about the refusal of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to remit outstanding balance of N450 billion to the Federation Account? The amount accumulated over the years. NNPC has moved from denying the debt to ignoring demands that it repays it. How NNPC came by this fraudulent practice of withholding money due to the Federation Account is not a matter
of concern to the anti-corruption agencies that are busy arresting individuals and organisations for debts as low as N100 million.
Government is pliant in asking NNPC to pay back the money. “It was resolved that NNPC must compulsorily by next month tell us how the corporation will pay the outstanding obligation of N450 billion.
It must come up with a repayment plan unfailingly by next month without recourse to its relationship with the Federal Government,” Chief
Remi Babalola, Minister of State for Finance and Chairman of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC, said after another futile month of waiting for NNPC to pay.
Nigerians should also note that even the National Assembly has not asked NNPC why it withheld the money and how it was used. If NNPC is having difficulties paying back the money or has to draw up a repayment plan, it means it has used the money. Who approved an illegal expenditure of money that belongs to the Federation Account?
The money belongs to the Federal Government, 36 states (plus Abuja) and the 774 local government areas of Nigeria. It is not NNPC’s money to be included in the billions of Naira of its accounts that have not been audited in more than eight years.
Another federal organisation that is setting new standards for transparency is Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The tax authorities in Imo State sealed up CBN office in Owerri for tax defaults dating back seven years. Nigeria’s personal income tax law provides for Pay As You Earn, PAYE, deductions to be remitted 10 days into a new month.
CBN Owerri Branch is alleged to have been deducting staff income taxes without remitting same to the tax authorities since 2002. The arrears amounted to N300 million, out of which CBN paid only N40 million the day before its office was sealed up. The arrears exclude 2009 deductions.
It is incredible that CBN which knows the importance of taxes to the operations of governments should behave in this manner. It is incredulous that it got away with this conduct for seven years.
Like NNPC, CBN was acting with the same flagrance most government agencies treat the law. In both cases, the law was breached. Where is the N300 million deducted over seven years? Who kept the money?
The law by being lax on big organisations like NNPC and CBN equally compromises itself before small offenders.