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House probes N2.6tn debts owed FG by 77 oil firms, Gbajabiamila alarmed

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The House of Representatives said it has ordered an immediate investigation into debts totalling N2.6trillion allegedly owed the Federal Government by oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria.

A report by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) which contains the figure, said to be accruals from “failure of the firms to remit Petroleum Profit Tax, Company Income Tax, Education Tax, Value Added Tax, Withholding Tax, Royalties, Penalties and Concession on rentals to the Federal Government.”

The House, which was presided over by the Speaker, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday, raised an Adhoc committee to investigate the matter after the lawmaker representing Lere Federal Constituency of Kaduna State, Rep. Ahmed Munir, brought it up the floor through a motion on notice.

His motion, which received unanimous endorsement by his colleagues, reads partly, “The House is concerned that such a huge debt is being overlooked at a critical time when the country needs funding for its annual budget.

“Cognisant that if debts are recovered, the money could be used to service some of the Federal Government’s debts as well as fund up to 16.2 per cent of the 2022 budget deficit.

“Also cognisant that recovery of the debts is critical in this period of dwindling revenues especially as the Covid-19 pandemic has grossly affected the country’s economy.”

Gbajabiamila and most members were reportedly jolted on hearing about the huge debt figure.

“N2.6tn is a lot of money. Hon. Munir, are you really sure of this figure?” the Speaker asked.

However, a member from Ogun State, Rep. Isiaka Ibrahim, advised the House to proceed on the side of caution by conducting what he called a “proper investigation.”

He argued that there was a possibility that some of the debts might be due to delays in the reconciliation of figures between the federal government and the oil firms.

“Let us carry out a proper investigation on what oil firms owe the FG and what the FG owes the oil firms”, Honourable Ibrahim added.

Ibrahim noted that there had been some unresolved issues between the two sides relating to Joint Venture (JV) Cash Calls.

Nonetheless, the motion secured a unanimous voice vote and an Adhoc committee was set up by Speaker Gbajabiamila to give effect to the House resolution within four weeks.

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