By Jaiyeola Andrews and Ejiofor Alike
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the international audit firm appointed by the federal government to undertake a forensic report on the alleged unremitted oil revenue by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to the Federation Account, finally submitted its report to the presidency on Monday in Abuja.
In a brief ceremony witnessed by the Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Samuel Ukura, President Goodluck Jonathan, who received the report from the firm's Country Senior Partner, Mr. Uyi Akpata, expressed delight that the report was finally out, adding that it would go a long way in bringing to an end the controversy over allegations on "stolen funds" in NNPC.
He described the reports in some newspapers as ridiculous, adding that the kind of figures that he could not even believe Nigeria were being bandied as missing funds.
He said the Auditor General would look at the report and present key highlights of it to the public within one week.
"There has been so much of controversy over NNPC and leakages or no leakages. I remember the Senate had also looked into it, so it is also good that you professionals have also looked into it.
"What appeared in the papers and speculations were also very high. In fact, figures that I cannot even imagine the country would make were being bandied in the newspapers.
"So I am quite pleased that you have undertaken the forensic audit. Though it is voluminous, I will give it to the professionals.
"In government work, there are people that have the statutory responsibilities to handle such assignments, which is the auditor general of the federation.
"So the auditor general will look at it and within the week, let us know the key highlights because the media would want to know the key findings vis-a-vis the Senate findings and figures being bandied around in the newspapers, because Nigerians are interested in this information," Jonathan said.
The president also said his administration was committed to reforming the oil sector with the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB), which is still before the National Assembly.
"Indeed you mentioned the issue of reform in the sector and everybody knows that the sector needs to be reformed. By the time we go through the Petroleum Industry Bill and pass it into a law, most of these lapses will be corrected and the misconceptions will be properly addressed," he said.
Jonathan thanked PWC for its work and expressed confidence that the report will help to move things forward and set the records straight, promising to handle the recommendations of the report decisively.
Jonathan also allayed fears over the country's finances, disclosing that PWC had offered to submit an interim report, which he rejected and insisted that a comprehensive forensic audit must be submitted.
"I hope we will not call you back, but where need be, we will call you back if there are issues that are not so clear. But we are happy with what you have done so far "I assure you that this is a precious document that the accountant general will keep and I will have my own copy, because even after I leave office and I need to write my memoirs, I will use some part of it," he said.
The federal government had appointed PWC early last year to undertake a forensic audit of the finances of NNPC after the former CBN Governor (now Emir of Kano), Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, had written a letter to Jonathan over the non-remittance of $49.8 billion to the Federation Account by the corporation between January 2012 and July 2013.
The revelation, which led to an uproar among Nigerians and Sanusi's eventual suspension as the CBN governor, forced the federal government to appoint the audit firm to audit the NNPC.
Before his ouster, however, Sanusi revised the amount, which he said had not been remitted by NNPC from $49.8 billion to $10.8 billion and later to $20 billion. Meanwhile, crude oil prices rose yesterday as investors ignored the industrial action by workers of refineries in the United States of America (US) and bought more crude oil in anticipation of lower production, following a fall in the US rig count.
But the member countries of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have remained cautious, saying that prices may stay depressed until summer due to weak seasonal demand.
They however believed that Saudi Arabia's strategy of curbing the output growth of rival producers in the US, Canada and Russia might have started achieving tangible results.
Oil prices had on Friday closed above the 20-day moving average for the first time since July 2014 and with the US rig count falling sharply, signaling lower production down the line, investors felt that it was an opportunity to buy more crude.
Reuters also reported that Brent crude futures were up 50 cents at $53.50 a barrel, after leaping as high as $55.62 and dipping as low as $51.41, as the bulls battled with the bears.
Similarly, US crude (West Texas Intermediate) was up 55 cents at $48.79 a barrel, after touching an intraday high of $50.56 and slumping to $46.67.
Brent crude speculators raised their net long positions by 1,056 contracts to 143,039 in the week to January 27, as some investors took the view that the oil price was beginning to bottom out.