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N2trn unremitted revenue crisis rocks DPR

A N2 trillion unremitted revenue racket has rocked the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). The oil and gas industry regulator raked in N2.4 trillion in 2019, but only remitted N44 billion, leaving behind N2 trillion for personal use, according to a document from the Nigerian Senate. The upper legislative house, which has begun a probe of this racket, barred agency’s Director, Sarki Auwalu, from appearance before it through proxy as probe of N2.4 trillion revenues continued during the week.

The Senate had last Friday took a swipe at the officials of DPR over meagre remittance of N44.5 billion into the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 2019 out of N2.4 trillion generated. The Senator Olamilekan Adeola- led Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning on projected revenues estimated in the 2021 – 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper ( FSP) requested to have records of the agency’s internally generated revenues in 2019 and projections for 2021.

Responding, the Director of DPR, Engr Sarki Auwalu, confirmed that a total of N2.4 trillion was generated by DPR in 2019 but N44 billion was remitted into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. He was represented by the Head of Planning of the agency, Johnson Ajewole. Not happy with the wide gap in what was realised and remitted, the senators described his submission as unacceptable.

The committee members were further angered even with efforts made by the Head of Finance and Accounts of the petroleum agency, Mrs Lilian Ufondu, to explain the wide gap in revenues and remittance. According to her, out of the N2.4 trillion generated by DPR in 2019, N88 billion was removed as four per cent collection fee out of which N5.72 billion was also remitted, while the balance was used for overhead.

Persistent questions to her by the committee chairman and members on what happened to the over N2 trillion balance were not satisfactorily answered as she was only able to mention overhead and operational costs without specific figures tied to them. According to her, as at July this year, DPR had generated N1.13 trillion and projected N3.4 trillion as revenue generation for 2021 out of which N139 billion will be taken out as 4 per cent collection fee. Angered by the submissions and alleged disjointed records presentations, the committee ordered that the agency must reappear before it unfailingly on next week and must be led by its Director, Sarki Auwalu, who was alleged to have traveled abroad. Adeola particularly said: “Information and records presented to us by both Directors or, heads of departments that have spoken are not clear and insufficient as regards budget performance of DPR within the last three years and revenue projection for 2021.”

The agency has, asides being a watchdog for the industry, been a revenue collection point for government. Already, over 600 companies have applied to be prequalified for the ongoing bid rounds of 57 marginal oil fields in the country. Sarki made the disclosure while speaking in a television programme. A marginal field is a field with proportionate reserves booked and reported annually to the DPR and has remained unproduced for a pe-riod of over 10 years. Sarki said Nigeria last conducted marginal field bid rounds in 2003, stressing that the ongoing exercise had attracted widespread interest because of the transparent and credible procedures put in place by the agency. He said: ”First I will say that we have really witnessed an increase in bidders after the extension of the deadline to June 21. There has been almost a 30 per cent increase in the participation.

“If you are making a bid or auctioning any oil field, you need to get 10 people per field really going after the field. We have 57 fields and we have over 600 companies. So we can say that we are celebrating success so far. “After the extension, we are moving according to schedule and now we are in the phase where we do pre-qualification for the bidders to apply. Everything is going perfectly.” According to him, this is good news to Nigeria and Nigerians because it shows that the country is ready for business and that there are credible companies who are interested in investing in the country. Sarki also disclosed that strategic programmes have been put in place by the DPR to mitigate the impact of a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.

He said part of the strategy was to reduce the number of workers on offshore locations and construction sites, encourage decontamination, testing and working with health agencies, especially the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. The DPR director said the agency would continue to ensure that companies are COVID- 19 compliant and adhere to the 14-day quarantine protocols for workers. Sarki said for the industry to survive and be taken to the next level, stakeholders must devise ways to deal with the triple challenges posed by the coronavirus, fall in oil prices and supply glut.

He said: “We have outlined survival kits post-COVID-19 which involves four key strategies. “These include rationalisation of portfolios, strategic partnerships among Nigerian companies, new business opportunities using technology to get it done and cost control and management to see how best we can strive to take the nation to the next level. “Then, expectations are four. Innovation and resilience, partnership and collaboration as well as industry growth and business development.”

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