From Kemi Yesufu and Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs and House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) have commenced a forensic audit of NDDC’s account and projects.
Speaking at a joint hearing on the non-remittance of three percent gross earnings of oil companies operating in the region yesterday, Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Peter Nwaboshi, disclosed that both committees commissioned consultants to conduct a forensic audit of the commission’s account. But the lawmakers descended heavily on the NDCC over revelations of its unprofessional approach to collecting constitutionally stipulated payment from oil companies.
The joint Committee expressed disappointment that despite its agreeing to assist the Commission in collecting it debts, the Commission has not developed a transparent mechanism of collecting the dues from oil companies.
The Commission had approached the lawmakers to assist it in compelling most oil companies operating in the region to pay up the three percent due of their gross earnings.
Nwaboshi said it has become even more necessary to ensure the audit is fully carried out, following the revelation by Oriental Energy Resources Ltd that it made several attempts to reconcile its accounts with NDDC to no avail.
The oil company in its submission explained that following its takeover of the operational obligations of its parent company, Oriental Oil, it paid $18 million to NDDC in 2014. But after that payment, it could not remit another $1 million due to it because the Commission was not cooperative.
The company’s representative said despite letters and reminders sent to the Commission, calling for an account reconciliation meeting, up to date, there still was no response even when the last attempt to contact the Commission was made in December 2015.
The company said it withheld payment when the Commission sent a private account number, rather than a verifiable account number or details of a Treasury Single Account (TSA) arrangement.