Nigeria’s oil company kept nearly half of oil revenue

Nigeria’s state oil company earned 8.1 trillion naira ($41 billion) from 2012 until the end of May, but only paid 4.3 trillion to the federal government, the country’s National Economic Council (NEC) said on Monday.

The NEC, which includes Nigeria’s 36 state governors and its central bank governor, and is chaired by the vice president, met on Monday for the first time since President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in on May 29.

“We are talking about transparency, we are talking about change. And what we saw from those numbers, I believe that Nigerians are entitled to know, is that whereas the NNPC claimed to have earned 8.1 trillion naira, what the NNPC paid into the federation account from 2012 to May 2015 was 4.3 trillion naira,” Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomole said after the meeting.

He said that under the constitution, the NNPC is supposed to hand over its oil revenue to the federal government and should then be paid what it needs based on a budget approved by parliament.

“Let us also be clear: nobody says that parastatals should not spend money, but they must return to budgeting,” Oshiomole told reporters, speaking on behalf of the NEC.

The oil sector is the lifeblood of Nigeria’s economy, providing the government with roughly 80 percent of its revenue. The slump in the crude oil prices since last year has hit the economy and markets badly, forcing the central bank to peg the naira to prevent it falling further against the dollar and leaving salaries unpaid for months.

In 2013, the then central bank governor Lamido Sanusi said tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue had failed to make it into state coffers, while watchdogs say the government may be losing billions more through opaque contracts in which crude oil is swapped for refined imports such as diesel.

Oshiomole also said Nigeria’s so-called Excess Crude Account, a fund which saves revenue earned from crude oil above a defined benchmark price, had fallen to $2 billion from $4.1 billion in November. He said the NEC had set up a panel to investigate where the money went.

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