By Bassey Inyang/Calabar
A lawyer and chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Okoi Obono-Obla, has faulted the claims made by Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Bello Adoke, over the remittance of funds by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Obono-Obla, who is an anti-corruption crusader, is reacting against the backdrop of a statement credited to Adoke when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Finance probing the alleged non remittance of the sum of $20 billion by NNPC to the Federation Accounts to the effect that NNPC is enjoined by Section 7 (4) of the NNPC Act to defray all expenses incurred in the course of its business in the upstream operations.
Obono-Obla, who stated his position on Sunday thorough a text entitled “Why the Attorney General of the Federation is Wrong on the Non Remittance of $20 billion into Federation Accounts”, which he made available to Daily Independent, said stance on the matter is “untenable and therefore wrong.”
Obono-Obla said: “The Attorney General justified the failure of the NNPC to account for the said $20 billion, because, the money was used to defray the expenses incurred by the NNPC in the running of its affairs.
“The learned Attorney General of the Federation, in a bid to explain away the non remittance by the NNPC of the sum of $20 billion into the Federation Account, submitted that by Section 7 (4) of the NNPC Act, what the NNPC is required to pay into the Federation Accounts is “net revenue” as opposed to the gross revenue.
“I submit that the position of the Attorney General is untenable hogwash and untenable.
“I submit that there is nothing in Section 7 (4) of the NNPC Act that confers the power on the NNPC to refuse to pay into the Federation Accounts monies realised from the sale of crude under the guise that the NNPC must first deduct or defray from such monies expenses incurred by it in the course of running of its affairs”, he said.
In making reference to Section 4 (b) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Act, Cap. N123, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2010, Obono-Obla said the clause provides that: ”Such monies as may be received by the corporation in the course of its operations or in relation to the exercise by the corporation or any of its functions under this Act, and from such fund there shall be defrayed all expenses incurred by the corporation.”
He said that Section 7 (4) of the NNPC Act cannot override Section 162 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
“Section 162 of the constitution that provides that: “The Federation shall maintain a special account to be called “the Federation Account” into which shall be paid all revenues collected by the Government of the Federation, except the proceeds from the personal income tax of the personnel of the armed forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force, the ministry or department of government charged with responsibility for Foreign Affairs and the residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
The APC chieftain said the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the basic or fundamental law of the country. It is the ground norm.
He stated further that “The constitution is the highest statute in the rung or hierarchy of legislations in the country. It is the constitution that imparts or gives validity and efficacy to the NNPC Act.
“In other words the NNPC Act is an inferior legislation to the constitution because it derives its validity from the constitution.
“It goes without saying that where the provisions of an inferior legislation such as the NNPC Act conflicts or is inconsistent with the constitution it must bow to the superiority of the constitution”.
Obono-Obla said he is “surprised that the learned Attorney General of the Federation would take umbrage under the provisions of Section 7 (4) of the NNPC Act to justify the failure of the NNPC to account for a humongous sum of $ 20 billion by the NNPC.