By Chinwendu Agoha (Governance Reporter)
The N1.5 trillion recently recovered from oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria is part of the mess left by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which President Muhammadu Buhari has been clearing in all sectors of the economy.
Making this assertion, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) said in a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, that the amount was part of tax and fees identified by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (NEITI) in a 2019 report on a N2.6trn debt owed by 77 companies.
"The revelation by the NEITI Executive Secretary, Dr Ogbonnaya Orji is yet another demonstration of political will by the Buhari administration to correct past ills in the extractive industries in general and the oil sector in particular.
"While negligence on the part of government officials could not be overlooked, we are convinced that corruption and collusion with officials of the then ruling PDP must have emboldened the defaulting firms.
"For the avoidance of doubt, NEITI is an agency in the Presidency created in 2007 in line with global best practices, but on President Buhari's watch, it became a proper watchdog in conformity with the EITI mission of promoting open and transparent management of oil, gas and mineral resources.
“The recoveries, according to NEITI, include all taxes and VAT being collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and all royalties being collected by the Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC).
"It was gratifying that while FIRS had earlier recovered $810million, NURPC got $1.416billion, amounting to $2.226bn (N900bn). NEITI explained that by working with a National Assembly review committee, it was able to push the debtors to pay more which then translated to FIRS getting an additional $662.9m while the NUPRC got $913.5m totalling $1.576bn (N600bn).
"So now that N1.5trn has been recovered, the agency said what remains from outstanding taxes and fees from the oil companies is N1.07trn and promised to provide further updates in the 2021 report to be released this year", the statement added.
BMO noted that it was not the first time NEITI, and by extension, the Buhari administration was living up to expectations in the sector in the last seven years.
"Can anyone forget the role the agency played in the period leading to the passage of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts (Amendment) Bill 2019, otherwise known as the 'PSC Amendment Bill', which reversed decades of cheating that the country had been subjected to.
"To underline its importance, the Presidency issued a statement on the day the bill was signed into law which read in part: 'For the first time under our amended law, 200 million Nigerians will start to receive a fair return on the surfeit of resources of our lands. Increased income will allow for new hospitals, schools, infrastructure and jobs. Today marks a new and beneficial relationship with our oil company partners: one that benefits all
"And then there's the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), which PDP had for close to 20 years shown little or no interest in pushing through, but is now a reality under Buhari's watch".
The group added that the Buhari administration will ensure that never again will the country be denied what is due it from the extractive industries. NNL.