Acting on the 2019 report of the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, commenced investigative hearing on the N2.6 trillion owed the Federal Government by the 77 oil companies operating in Nigeria.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, threatened that the parliament might be forced to invoke the provisions of the Constitution against company or official who fails or refuses to cooperate with the House on the probe.
While admitting that the Federal Government is experiencing shortage of revenue to fund its annual budget, Gbajabiamila noted that N2.6tn is a huge sum of money that should not be allowed to go down the drain.
The Speaker said, “To underscore the importance of this exercise, let me make a bold statement that if there are companies or individuals that refuse to cooperate with the committee during this exercise, it may be the first time in the 9th Assembly or in the history that I will personally invoke the provisions of the Constitution and have such person arrested. That is how important this exercise is.
He added, “There is direct nexus between revenue generation and infrastructural development. It is also very important and that is why the House, in its wisdom, decided to put in place an ad hoc committee even though there is a standing committee that works directly in this area. I expect that the deliberation will be thorough and interrogate if it is true that the NEITI report is what it is.”
According to Gbajabiamila, N2.6tn is a significant sum of money under any circumstances, stating that, “When the country is confronting significant revenue shortages, coupled with an overwhelming need to address longstanding developmental challenges, there is a greater obligation on the government to do all that is necessary to recover these sums.”
He gave these as the reasons why the House resolved to “investigate these debts, conduct a proper reconciliation of accounts between the Federal Government and oil companies, and urge the National Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the National Oil Spill Detection Agency, and the Federal Inland Revenue Agency to provide the data required to facilitate the recovery of debts owed to the Federal Government by the oil and gas companies.”
Chairman of the committee and Deputy Chief Whip of the House, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, decried that some oil firms were holding on to government’s revenue at this critical time that it needs fund to finance the 2022 Appropriation Act.