A dramatic scene ensued during a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Gas Resources on Thursday as the disbursement of N135 billion by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to certain companies in the oil and gas industry came under investigation.
The hearing witnessed a tense exchange between the apex bank, Ministry of Petroleum in the presence of panel members.
The Committee Chairman, Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, had summoned 15 companies to provide an account of the disbursement they had been unwilling to repay. However, during the investigation, the Ministry of Petroleum’s representative, Mrs. Oluremi Komolafe, stated that while the intervention was their initiative, they were unaware of the CBN’s disbursement.
Komolafe clarified that the Ministry had received 150 applications, of which 69 companies were recommended, while processing was still ongoing for 16 other applications. She asserted that the list of recommended companies had been forwarded to the CBN for further action, emphasizing that the Ministry had not processed the list.
In response, the CBN’s acting Director of Project Finance, Alhaji Sahaad, absolved the bank of any responsibility for the disbursement, stating that they had solely provided guidelines for the intervention loan. He clarified that commercial banks were responsible for the actual disbursement, highlighting the CBN’s role in facilitating the loan and ensuring favorable interest rates and tenure for the borrowers.
Senator Jimoh Ibrahim challenged the CBN’s claim, insisting that the bank should have been aware of the disbursement and involved as commercial banks could not disburse the intervention fund without the guidance of the CBN. He deemed the excuses unacceptable.
The Committee Chair warned of potential involvement of anti-graft agencies to retrieve the money from defaulting beneficiaries. He criticized the perceived discrimination in loan disbursement and pointed out instances where certain companies, such as Dangote Refinery and Pinnacle Oil and Gas, had exceeded the prescribed threshold by utilizing the funds for their refinery and depot projects. The Chair emphasized the need for the funds to be repaid to the Federal Government.
The lawmakers further revealed violations of the guidelines, stating that companies like Dangote Refinery and Pinnacle Oil and Gas had utilized the intervention funds for purposes beyond what was specified. Consequently, they accused the CBN and the Ministry of Petroleum of working at cross purposes, allowing the beneficiaries to avoid loan repayment.
Among the summoned companies were 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.
The ongoing investigation by the Senate Committee seeks to uncover the truth behind the disbursement of the intervention loan and ensure accountability in the oil and gas sector.