The National Assembly joint Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has issued bench warrant on seven oil companies operating for failing to appear at its public hearing.
The committee had invited all oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region to defend themselves over alleged non-remittance of statutory funds to NDDC for development of the region.
Chairman of Senate Committee on NDDC, Mr Peter Nwaoboshi, gave the directive for the issuance of the bench warrant when the companies failed to attend the committee’s interactive meeting.
The affected companies are Continental Oil and Gas Ltd, Conoil Oil Producing Limited, Niger Delta Petroleum Resources and Allied Energy Plc.
Others are Sheba Petroleum Exploration and Production, Newcross E& P, Pan-ocean Oil Corporation and Atlas Petroleum Development Company.
Nwaoboshi said that the committee was carrying out doing its patriotic duty for the country.
He and other members of the committee, however, accused the management of NDDC of not keeping accurate financial records of remittances from oil companies.
They exonerated the acting Managing Director of the commission, Mrs Ibim Semenitari on grounds that she was still new on the job.
The joint committee expressed displeasure at the commission’s negligence of its responsibilities, especially with failure to meet willing oil companies for reconciliation of accounts and records.
They said that the money was required for development of the area.
Representatives of some of the oil companies present at the meeting claimed that they had made effort to reach the management of the commission to reconcile their accounts and settle outstanding commitments, to no avail.
The representative of Oriental Energy Resources specifically told the committee that it had made several efforts to meet with the NDDC since December, 2015.
Chief Technical Adviser of the company, Mr Goni Sheikh, said that had written letters to the commission in the past six months, informing it of its readiness to pay 1 million dollars to it.
“NDDC has not given the company the opportunity to do so,’’ he said, adding that the company paid 18 million dollars to the commission in 2014 but had an outstanding of 1 million dollars.
Shiekh pleaded with the committee to intervene by making NDDC to schedule a meeting to enable them to reconcile the records.
In his remark, a member of the committee, Rep. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, suggested that the committee should carry out forensic auditing of NDDC’s account.
He said that there were discrepancies in the financial records provided by NDDC and that the commission should be made to account for all the remittances from the oil companies.
“We need to do proper reconciliation of NDDC account. There could be secret account in which oil companies paid money to NDDC and they go into private pockets.
“The impression is that the companies are not paying; I am not even sure that the ones paid by oil companies are in safe hands.
“Before now the impression is that the companies were not paying, but today, we have seen that the reverse is the case.
“We should discontinue the revenue collection for NDDC and investigate their account,” he said.