The All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, asked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to account for $5.5 billion paid in dividends to the federal government by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) since 2004, following published reports that the funds were never paid into the Federation Account as they should have been.
The APC described as a glaring example of grandstanding, the attempt by the PDP to distort the facts about the source of the $2.1 billion that was approved for sharing by the three tiers of government by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Whereas the Presidency corrected the initial erroneous report that the shared money was sourced from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), the skittish opposition continued to insist it was from the ECA and that it was part of the ‘savings’ by the Jonathan Administration.
“Well, we can tell Nigerians that the $2.1 billion was sourced from the $1.6 billion Company Income Tax/Education Tax paid to the Federal Government on June 17, 2015, over two weeks after the Jonathan Administration left office, as well as the $500 million tax paid by Shell. We can tell Nigerians that this is the first time the payment of the Income Tax/Education Tax by the NLNG was being disclosed by any government, in addition to paying it into the Federation Account for sharing, hence those who call it their ‘legitimate’ earnings should be asked why they did not demand the sharing of such ‘legitimate’ earnings in the past.
“We can tell Nigerians that apart from the said $1.6 billion NLNG payment for 2015, NLNG also paid $1.4 billion as Income Tax/Education Tax in May 2014; paid $0.3 billion as Education tax to the Federal Government in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and $1.2 billion in VAT and With-holding Tax to the Federal Government since 2009. These payments are just those made in the past six years alone, hence there were other payments before then.
“In addition, dividend payments totalling $4,728,136,946 was paid to the Federal Government between 2004 and 2009, out of which only $127,851,348.19 was credited to the FG’s Independent Account with JP Morgan, leaving a balance of over $4 billion. The questions to ask therefore are why all the past taxes and dividends were neither fully paid into the Federation Account nor shared by the three tiers of government and what happened to the funds,” it said.
The party also said that as part of the investigation, the PDP must be asked where it kept the $5.5 billion which it said was the dividend paid to the FG by the NLNG before the May 29 handover.
“Since, according to the PDP, President Goodluck Jonathan asked that the money be ‘left for the incoming administration to manage’ it is important for the party, therefore, to tell Nigerians in which account the money was ‘saved’ because it is definitely not in the Federation Account,” it said.
APC insisted that for any opposition to be credible, it must not only be factual and truthful, it must eschew pandering.
“Had the PDP embraced these cardinal principles, it would not have, in the rush to belittle the package that was approved for the states by President Buhari and to discredit his administration, engaged in outright lies and selective perception. While the PDP became fixated on the source of the money shared by the states, it forgot that there were other measures in the package that included a special intervention fund of between N250 billion and N300 billion from the CBN as a soft loan available to states to access for the purposes of paying backlog of salaries.
“The PDP also forgot the debt relief programme designed to assist the states to restructure their commercial loans of N660 billion, with a view to extending the life span of such loans and reducing the states’ debt-servicing expenditures. That way, the states are freed from their perennial inability to pay workers’ salaries, and more funds are available to the various governments to use for the benefit of the people. They have forgotten that the only time in the country’s history that this kind of rescue package was made was also during the tenure of Muhammadu Buhari as military Head of State,” the party said.
“The revelations concerning the deep rot in the system that will come in the weeks and months ahead will shock even the most ardent critics of the Buhari Administration’s salvaging efforts,” APC added.
Reacting, the PDP urged the APC to desist from misleading Nigerians on the NLNG, saying no government before now touched the money.
“Our attention has been drawn to the misleading and outright falsehood by the APC. The truth is that the NLNG had been on a 10-year tax haven until 2014,” a statement by PDP National Publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh,
“Within this period, successive governments, right from President Olusegun Obasanjo never shared nor tampered with the cumulative dividends. Whatever taxes paid from the NLNG go through the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) and recorded as part of the income of the Federal Government.
“It is imperative to note that by the end of the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan, NLNG dividends had risen to a cumulative $5.6 billion and not a single cent was ever taken from the funds.
“Although it is within the rights of the APC administration to spend the funds in any way they may decide, it is however, cruel for them to inflict on us all such malicious falsehood while the current Presidency, without the benefit of economic advisers and relevant statutory organs of government unilaterally decided to deplete the funds without thinking of the attendant future investments and financial obligations of Nigeria in the NLNG project.
“The APC must note that there is a limit to propaganda and lies. Now is the time for governance and this government has shown total unpreparedness to face the challenges of governance at the centre,”the PDP said.