What are we to make of the NNPC audit report?

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It was in the lead to the last election, that Petroleum Minister Diezani Allison-Maduekwe, was reported to have said that the “Forensic Audit” report conducted by PriceWaterHouseCooperson the NNPC was not released so that it would not be exploited for political purposes by the opposition.

Yet, just about 24 hours after President-elect MuhammaduBuhari vowed to revisit the allegation of a missing $20billion at the NNPC, President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the immediate release of the full report. Presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, told reporters that the release of the report was to put to rest any doubt about government’s transparency in the oil sector.

The hurried manner of the report’s release after months in the cooler, clearly betrayed panic and even while I am still very much digesting the report, I have to say that the devil in reports such as this, remains in the detail. And furthermore, the context within which the report was ordered was a politically charged one. There were allegations made about the management of revenues by the NNPC, by the former CBN Governor, now Emir of Kano.

In response, the Governor was suspended from office, by President Goodluck Jonathan, who was always willing to protect Diezani Allison-Maduekwe. It is clear that like the proverbial cup of water, some would see it as half full, while others would describe it as half empty!

Okonjo-Iweala, Diezani and Jonathan

Okonjo-Iweala, Diezani and Jonathan

It was very startling that the Introductory Letter to Nigeria’s Auditor General, by the auditing firm, stated that they were limited only to available information: “The procedures we performed did not constitute an examination or a review in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards or attestation standards”.

The letter went further that: “Accordingly, we provide no opinion, attestation or other forms of assurance with respect to our work or the information upon which our work was based”. The report, the letter stated, was: “solely for the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation, for their internal use and benefit and not intended to, nor may they be relied upon, by any other third party”.

It gets even more baffling when the firm added that: “We did not obtain any information directly from NPDC, but in accordance with NPDC former Managing Director’s (Mr. Briggs Victor) submission to the Senate Committee hearing on the subject matter, for the period, NPDC generated $5.11billion (net of royalties and petroleum profits tax paid)”.

The firm also relied on legal advise of the Attorney-General of the Federation, in lieu of independent legal opinion.  This was in respect of the transfers of NNPC (55%) portion of Oil leases (OMLs) involved in the Shell  (SPDC) Divestments that impact crude oil flows during the period. As the report stated: “The AG’s opinion indicated that these transfers were within the authority of the Minister to make”.

But why did it appear, with that Introductory Letter, that the audit firm was at the same time, saying a “Forensic Audit”, that it carried out must not be taken as having met the most exacting standards? On the basis of that letter alone, can we say that the Jonathan Administration, and especially one of its scared cows, Diezani, has been given an all clear by the audit report?

Or given the importance of the NNPC to the Nigerian economy, was it right for the President-elect, MuhammaduBuhari to carry out his vow to investigate the alleged missing sum of $20Billion and other pertinent issues in the cash cow of Nigeria, the NNPC? What really was Jonathan’s “Forensic Audit” worth? And what exactly are we to make of that “Forensic Audit”?

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