Senate Committee on Gas Resources Investigating disbursement of N135 billion Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to some companies in the oil and gas turned into a drama of some sorts as the apex bank and the Ministry of Petroleum traded tackles in full glare of the panel members during the hearing on Thursday.
Earlier, the Committee Chairman, Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe had invited 15 companies to appear before the Committee to account for the disbursement which they were unwilling to repay.
At the investigative hearing, representative of the Ministry of Petroleum, Mrs Oluremi Komolafe said though the intervention was the initiative of the Ministry, they were not aware of the disbursement by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
She revealed that 150 applications were received, out of which 69 companies were recommended, while 16 applications were still being processed, adding that the recommended companies were forwarded to the CBN for their action.
“We wish to state that the list was not processed by the Ministry,” she said.
The CBN, which was represented by the acting Director, Project Finance, Alhaji Sahaad exonerated the bank of any blame and said they only provided guidelines for the disbursement of the intervention loan to the beneficiary companies.
According to him, the disbursement was done by commercial banks.
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 tenure. The tenure for most of these facilities is 7-10 years.
“Our role is to facilitate the loan. ”
Reacting, Senator Jimoh Ibrahim insisted that the CBN ought to have known about the disbursement and got involved as commercial banks cannot disburse the intervention fund without the guidance of the apex bank, adding that the excuses were unacceptable.
The Chairman of the Committee threatened to alert the anti-graft agencies to recover the money from defaulting beneficiaries.
He cited discrimination in the disbursement of the intervention loan and how some of the disbursements over shot the threshold, particularly Dangote Refinery and Pinnacle Oil and Gas which used the fund to finance their refinery and depot projects, insisting that the funds must be paid back to the Federal Government.
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.
The Senators declared that the CBN and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources were working at cross purposes and the beneficiary companies were using the opportunity not to pay back the loan.
The 15 companies summoned by the Senate included 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.