The Presidency yesterday got a request – it should probe the whereabouts of about $4billion taxes and dividends paid by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Ltd.
The payments include Income tax, Education tax and dividends.
NLNG Managing Director Babs Omotowa told The Nation last week that the company had paid over $30 billion to its shareholders in the past 10 years.
Into which account were the funds paid? The All Progressives Congress (APC) urged President Muhammadu Buhari to launch a probe.
Nigeria, with a 49 per cent stake, is the single largest shareholder in the money-spinning company, which contributed $1.6 billion to the Federal Government’s multi-billion package for the states.
Relying on facts and figures, the APC claimed that of the $4,728,136,946 paid as dividends by the NLNG between 2009 and 2014, only $127,851,348.19 made it to the Federal Government’s Independent Account with JP Morgan.
It said the Buhari administration should tell Nigerians the whereabouts of the balance of over $4 billion.
Explaining the NLGN role in the “bailout” cash, Omotowa said the $1.6 billion was the Income Tax and Education Tax the company paid to the Federal Government through the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for the 2014 financial year.
But the APC, through its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, called on the Federal Government to urgently unravel what happened to the past dividends paid to it.
Mohammed said the probe became necessary following published reports that such remittances were never lodged into the Federation Account as required.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), through its spokeman, Olisah Metuh, claimed that the “bailout” cash, which will help states to pay salaries from the savings left behind by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Metuh, who counselled President Buhari to take a cue from his predecessor by saving for the rainy day, also claimed that NLNG’s dividend stood at $5.6 billion, when Dr. Jonathan left office on May 29.
Mohammed accused the PDP of grandstanding and standing logic on its head.
In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday, Mohammed described as a glaring example of grandstanding opposition the attempt by the PDP to distort the facts about the source of the $2.1 billion that was approved for sharing by the three tiers of government by the President.
The statement reads: “Whereas the Presidency corrected the initial erroneous report that the shared money was sourced from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), the skittish opposition continued to insist it was from the ECA and that it was part of the ‘savings’ by the Jonathan Administration.
“Well, we can tell Nigerians that the $2.1 billion was sourced from the $1.6 billion Company Income Tax/Education Tax paid to the Federal Government on June 17, 2015, over two weeks after the Jonathan Administration left office, as well as the $500 million tax paid by Shell.
“We can tell Nigerians that this is the first time the payment of the Income Tax/Education Tax by the NLNG was being disclosed by any government, in addition to paying it into the Federation Account for sharing, hence those who call it their ‘legitimate’ earnings should be asked why they did not demand the sharing of such ‘legitimate’ earnings in the past.
“We can tell Nigerians that apart from the said $1.6 billion NLNG payment for 2015, NLNG also paid $1.4 billion as Income Tax/Education Tax in May 2014, paid $0.3 billion as Education tax to the Federal Government in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and $1.2 billion in VAT and With-holding Tax to the Federal Government since 2009. These payments are just those made in the past six years alone, hence there were other payments before then.
“In addition, dividend payments totalling $4,728,136,946 were paid to the Federal Government between 2004 and 2009, out of which only $127,851,348.19 was credited to the Federal Government’s Independent Account with JP Morgan, leaving a balance of over $4 billion.
“The questions to ask therefore are why all the past taxes and dividends were neither fully paid into the Federation Account nor shared by the three tiers of government and what happened to the funds.”
The APC said the probe must be carried out in the light of President Buhari’s directive that all funds due to the Federal Government must be paid to the Federation Account as part of ways to plug financial leakages.
The statement went on: “In an effort to restore transparency to the system, it is important to let Nigerians know why all due funds were not paid into the Federation Account in the past and what happened to such funds.
“The party also said that as part of the investigation, the PDP must be asked where it kept the $5.5 billion which it said was the dividend paid to the Federal Government by the NLNG before the 29 May handover.
‘’Since, according to the PDP, President Goodluck Jonathan asked that the money be ‘left for the incoming administration to manage’, it is important for the party, therefore, to tell Nigerians in which account the money was ‘saved’ because it is definitely not in the Federation Account.”
Insisting that an opposition must not only be factual and truthful but ‘eschew pandering to be credible’, the APC said: “Had the PDP embraced these cardinal principles, it would not have, in the rush to belittle the package that was approved for the states by President Buhari and to discredit his administration, engaged in outright lies and selective perception.
“While the PDP became fixated on the source of the money shared by the states, it forgot that there were other measures in the package that included a special intervention fund of between N250 billion and N300 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as a soft loan available to states to access for the purposes of paying backlog of salaries.
“The PDP also forgot the debt relief programme designed to assist the states to restructure their commercial loans of N660 billion, with a view to extending the life span of such loans and reducing the states’ debt-servicing expenditures.
“That way, the states are freed from their perennial inability to pay workers’ salaries, and more funds are available to the various governments to use for the benefit of the people.
“They have forgotten that the only time in the country’s history that this kind of rescue package was made was also during the tenure of Muhammadu Buhari as military Head of State.”
The APC advised those who are showboating and distorting facts to tarry a while, as what they have seen was just a tip of the iceberg in a long journey to clear the rot left behind by “the rudderless administration of Dr. Jonathan”.
“The revelations concerning the deep rot in the system that will come in the weeks and months ahead will shock even the most ardent critics of the Buhari Administration’s salvaging efforts,” the party said.