Nigeria: Oil Corporation Withheld $25 Billion in Public Funds, Says Commission

A crude oil spill in the Niger Delta.
Spilled crude oil floats on the shores of the Niger Delta swamps in Bodo, Ogoniland, Nigeria, June 24, 2010. Nigeria's state-run oil corporation failed to submit $25 billion to the public purse over five years, a commission has found. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

Nigeria's state-run oil firm held back 4.9 trillion naira ($25 billion) of funds from the central government over five years, an investigative body has found.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is constitutionally bound to hand over its oil revenue to the federal government in Abuja, and funds are then distributed in accordance with the budget. The NNPC was accused of withholding 3.2 trillion naira ($16 billion) in 2014 alone by Nigeria's Auditor-General Samuel Ukura earlier in March but rejected the claim as inaccurate.

A commission established to monitor Nigeria's federal accounts said on Tuesday that the NNPC failed to submit 4.9 trillion naira between January 2011 and December 2015, Reuters reported. The NNPC has not publicly responded to the allegation and no-one was available to comment.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to crack down on corruption in the West African country and designated himself as having overall control of the petroleum ministry in September 2015, pledging to recover the "mind-boggling" sums of money stolen from the oil and gas sector. Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, is heavily dependent upon the sector—oil and gas make up 35 percent of Nigeria's GDP and petroleum products account for more than 90 percent of the value of its exports.

Nigeria's petroleum minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu recently announced the restructuring of the NNPC into 30 smaller, profit-making companies, sparking a one-day nationwide strike by members of oil and gas trade unions who claimed they had not been consulted. The strike exacerbated Nigeria's problems with oil supply, which have been caused by an uptick in attacks on oil facilities and pipelines in recent months.

The NNPC was forced to temporarily close two of its four refineries in January, only reopening the refinery in the southern city of Port Harcourt earlier in March, after sabotage of pipelines that the country's power minister Babatunde Fashola said in January was costing the country $2.4 million per day.

Nigeria: Oil Corporation Withheld $25 Billion in Public Funds, Says Commission | Business