The recent directive by President Bola Tinubu’s Federal Government instructing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to oversee crude oil sales proceeds from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) has drawn criticism from former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
In a statement on Thursday posted on his official Facebook page, Atiku argued that the recent action is unlawful and erodes the operational independence of the NNPCL.
President Tinubu’s directive, as per the information available, requires the NNPCL to present receipts for crude oil sales to the CBN for scrutiny and documentation.
Atiku maintained that this directive contravenes the legal standing of the NNPCL, depicting it as an arbitrary command that compromises the operational autonomy of the company.
The ex-Vice President asserted that the president’s directive effectively seizes control of the NNPCL’s finances, assigning it to the Federal Ministry of Finance and the CBN.
The PDP Presidential Candidate characterized this unprecedented action as lacking legal and ethical justification, constituting a breach of due process in public administration.
Referring to the Petroleum Industry Act 2021 (PIA), Atiku underscored that the NNPCL, established as an independent limited liability company, should be permitted to operate in accordance with the provisions of the law.
The PIA extensively details the establishment, structure, governance, and operations of the NNPCL in Sections 53 to 65 of the Act.
Atiku emphasized the crucial need to adhere to the law and permit the NNPCL to operate independently, guided by sound commercial objectives, international best practices, and established principles of corporate governance.
He argued that granting such autonomy is essential for the NNPCL to develop into a formidable institution with the technical and financial capabilities necessary for global significance in the petroleum industry.
Additionally, Atiku pointed out that the Central Bank Act 2007 does not assign the responsibility to the CBN for scrutinizing transactions or formulating and maintaining internal controls and audits in state-owned enterprises, whether public or private. He advocated for the CBN to align with its core functions as stipulated in the existing law.
For transparency and accountability in the NNPCL’s operations, Atiku proposed the monitoring of its bank accounts for crude sales proceeds, including those at institutions like Morgan Stanley, by the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and the CBN.
Furthermore, he suggested an improved selection and reconstitution of the NNPCL board members, potentially incorporating representatives from the CBN and NEITI.