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N135bn gas intervention: Senators kick as CBN, Petroleum Ministry trade blame

Senators in the Committee on Gas Resources on Thursday expressed disaffection over the blame game between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over disbursement of N135Billion for the Nigeria Gas Expansion Programme.

The Senate Committee had last week asked the beneficiary oil and gas companies to appear before it.

The 15 companies summoned by the Senate includes; Nigeria Independent Petroleum Company, Plc, (NIPCO), Hyde Engineering and Construction Company, Pinnacle Oil and Gas, Dangote Oil Refinery, Lee Engineering and Construction Company, Nova Gas and nine others.

Checks revealed that in 2021, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources initiated the intervention fund in collaboration with the CBN.

But speaking at the investigative hearing, representative of the Ministry of Petroleum, Mrs Oluremi Komolafe told the Senate Committee led by Senator Jarigbe Jarigbe that the Ministry was not aware of the disbursement of the intervention fund.

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Mrs Komolafe disclosed that 150 applications were received, 69 companies recommended and presently 16 applications are being processed.

She declared that the list of recommended companies were merely sent to the apex bank.

“We wish to state that the list was not processed by the Ministry,” she insisted.

But the acting Director, Project Finance at the CBN, Alhaji Sahaad said the apex bank only provided guidelines for the disbursement of the loan to the beneficiary companies. He said the disbursement was done by the commercial banks whom he noted should take responsibility for due diligence.

He said: “The primary responsibility is for banks. If we send a proposal to the bank, they have to subject it to due diligence. CBN was never involved in the disbursement.

“What we do is to ensure that they give single digit interest and a fairly long term tenor. The tenure for most of these facilities is 7-10 years.

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“Our role is to facilitate the loan. “

Senator Jimoh Ibrahim however faulted the submission of the CBN Director as he declared that N135 billion could not have left the vaults of commercial banks without the knowledge of the CBN.

Senator Hussaini Babangida accused the Ministry of Finance and the CBN of working at cross purposes.

He said: “I am horrified that CBN and the Petroleum Ministry are working at cross purposes; this isn’t good enough.”

The Committee established that the banks violated the credit limit of N10 billion as some of the beneficiary companies received N15 billion and N20bn.

The lawmakers equally established that in violation of the guidelines, companies like Dangote Refinery and Pinnacle Oil and Gas used the fund to finance their refinery and depot projects, respectively.

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Legal counsel, Lee Engineering, Benedict Ebalukhota, however told the Committee that the company used the fund for the gas project. Ebalukhota, who revealed Ekpan-Warri, Delta State as project site, said the project was ninety percent completed and due for commissioning next year.

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jarigbe later declared that his team had resolved to visit the location of the gas projects by the individual companies.

He said: “We need to see these projects to confirm whether the intent of these funds is realised. We need to visit and do evaluation and submit evaluation report for us to know whether the projects meant the intent of government.

“We will do on the spot assessment of the various projects, see the locations. If the funds were diverted, we will call the anti graft agency to come in.”

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