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SIPHONED OFF?

Nigeria’s state oil company is missing $16 billion

A fuel station attendant dispenses kerosene at a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) mega petrol station in Abuja.
Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
Fuel goes out, but money hasn’t necessarily been coming in.
By Melvin Backman
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The drama continues over the long period of alleged widespread corruption at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp (NNPC).

Nigeria’s auditor general said Monday (March 14) that the state oil company failed to turn over $16 billion in revenue due to the government in 2014. The announcement comes on the heels of news earlier this month that NPCC is splitting itself into 30 different business units in order to weaken the hold of entrenched bureaucrats.

The missing funds are no minor thing, as two-thirds of the Nigerian government’s revenue was derived from its oil sector in 2014, according to Central Bank of Nigeria figures. The March 15 disclosure is part of a cleanup campaign by president Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power last year vowing to rein in corruption that has hampered the growth of Africa’s largest economy, leaving much of the country without electricity, for example, despite it having among the world’s largest oil reserves.

This isn’t the first time that oil funds have been reported missing in Nigeria. A bombshell allegation by the central bank in 2013 claimed that $50 billion in NNPC oil sales over an 18-month period were unaccounted for. The NNPC denied the allegations. The government’s response to that disclosure (which included suspending the central bank governor) and the corruption it embodied became a rallying cry for Buhari as he swept former president Goodluck Jonathan out of office.

Buhari’s oil minister, Ibe Kachikwu, has been trying with uneven success to reform NNPC and increase its transparency. NNPC officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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