* Cbank leaked letter said $50 billion unaccounted for
* Finance, oil ministers held talks with cbank governor
* Probes have found state-oil firm to lack transparency
By Camillus Eboh
ABUJA, Dec 18 Nigeria's central bank said on
Wednesday the state-oil company NNPC had not paid $12 billion it
earned from oil sales into government accounts, not $50 billion
as it had earlier stated.
The central bank said in a letter dated Sept. 25 to
President Goodluck Jonathan that NNPC had failed to pay $49.8
billion of revenue it earned from selling the country's oil in
the 18-months up to July this year into the federal government
account, in violation of the law.
The letter was leaked to the media last week, prompting
public outcry. Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Central
Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi and Petroleum Minister and NNPC
Chairwoman Diezani Alison-Madueke have since held talks.
Sanusi said on Wednesday that after the discussions it was
assured that NNPC was only responsible for paying $28 billion
from oil exports and had submitted $16 billion to the
government, although $12 billion was still outstanding.
Oil accounts for 80 percent of government revenues and a
shortfall of $12 billion would amount to more than a third of
the central government's annual budget.
Nigeria's oil savings account has been depleted to around $3
billion, from $9 billion a year ago, making Africa's second
largest economy more vulnerable to any oil price fall.
"We're told that the shortfall has always been part of an
ongoing discussion with the finance and petroleum (Ministries)
and NNPC. So this is where we are," Sanusi told reporters.
Former World Bank director Okonjo-Iweala said there had been
some misunderstandings which led to the central bank letter
being written but no money was missing.
"There are some shortfalls that both the NNPC and ministry
of finance have been working on for quite some time, but no
money is missing," she said, without saying where the funds were
or when they would be paid back.
NNPC has been criticised for lacking transparency in recent
years but Sanusi appears to be one of the most high-profile
figures to have brought up the issue with Jonathan.
Nigeria's Senate has launched an investigation into the
reports that NNPC has withheld government revenue.
Africa's most populous nation and its top oil producer is
growing as an investment destination but corruption scandals
still tarnish the country's image.
NNPC exports Nigeria's share of around 2-2.5 million barrels
per day of oil the country produces, mostly in joint ventures
with oil majors like Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil
, Italy's Eni and Chevron.
A report in 2011 by Transparency International and Revenue
Watch found NNPC to have the poorest transparency record out of
44 national and international energy companies it evaluated.