Africa Oil & Gas: Nigerian Senate to Probe $3.5 Billion Spent by State Oil Firm

(Bloomberg) — Lawmakers in Nigeria will investigate $3.5 billion allegedly spent by the state oil firm on gasoline subsidies and expressed concern that the sum was not included in the national budget.

The amount was used by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. under a so-called Subsidy Recovery Fund managed only by the NNPC’s managing director, Maikanti Baru, and a senior finance official, according to the senator who brought up the motion, Biodun Olujimi.

“This fund is too huge for two people to manage,” she said during a plenary in the capital, Abuja, according to transcriptions posted on the Senate’s Twitter account after the motion was passed. “The $3.5 billion is too huge to be managed without appropriation.”

An NNPC spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a call and a text message seeking comment.

It wasn’t immediately clear over which period of time the money was allegedly spent. Nigeria used $1.3 billion for gasoline subsidies in the six months through June, according to a Renaissance Capital note sent to clients Tuesday.

Capped Pump Price

Despite being Africa’s top oil producer, Nigeria imports almost all the fuel it consumes since its refineries are in a decrepit state. The NNPC imports the bulk of the gasoline and the pump price is capped by the government at 145 naira, or $0.40, a liter ($1.52/gallon).

NNPC officials will be summoned by the senate committee on the downstream sector, upper house president Bukola Saraki said Tuesday, and the committee will report back by next week.

The NNPC has often been criticized for its opaque management and inefficiency. In July, Nigeria’s House of Representatives, the parliament’s lower chamber, said it would investigate the firm for not sending enough funds to the government.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA operate joint ventures with NNPC, accounting for about 90 percent of oil output in Nigeria.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sophie Mongalvy in Lagos at smongalvy@bloomberg.net; Tope Alake in Lagos at talake@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net Paul Wallace, Andre Janse van Vuuren.

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