The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) on Tuesday disclosed that 77 oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria currently owe the country $6.48 billion (N2.7 trillion), which can be used to service Nigeria’s debt.
In a statement issued in Abuja, the agency’s Executive Secretary, Mr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, noted that the debts, which were identified in its 2019 Oil and Gas Audit Report, arose from the failure of the firms to remit petroleum profit tax, company income tax, education tax, value-added tax, withholding tax, royalty and concession on rentals to the federation account.
Giving a breakdown of the figures, NEITI explained that a total of $143.99 million is owed as petroleum profit taxes; $1.089 billion as company income taxes and $201.69 million as education tax.
Others, he said, included $18.46 million and £972,000 as Value Added Tax; $23.91 million and £997,000 as Withholding Tax; $4.357 billion as royalty oil; $292.44 million as royalty gas, while $270.187 million and $41.86 million were unremitted gas flare penalties and concession rentals respectively.
Mr Orji stated that the disclosure was important and timely in view of the government’s current search for revenues to address citizens’ demand for steady power, access to good roads, quality education, fight insurgency and creation of job opportunities for the country’s teeming youths.
According to him, a comparative analysis of what the amount of money can contribute to economic development shows that it could have covered the entire capital budget of the federal government in 2020 or even used to service the federal government’s debt of $2.68 billion in 2020.
He said: “In 2021 if the money is recovered the N2.659 trillion could fund about 46 per cent of Nigeria’s 2021 budget deficit of N5.6 trillion and is even higher than the entire projected oil revenue for 2021. This is why NEITI is set to work with the government to provide relevant information and data to support efforts at recovering this money.
“The disclosure of this information is in line with NEITI’s mandate to conduct audits, disseminate the findings to the public to enable the citizens, especially the media and civil society to use the information and data to hold government, companies and even society to account. It is important that the process of recovering this humongous sum be set on course to support the government in this period of dwindling revenues.”
He noted that NEITI is determined to help the Federal Government recover the money from the 77 companies, and advised the affected companies to ensure they remit the various outstanding sums against them before the conclusion of the 2020 NEITI audit cycle to the relevant government agencies responsible for collection and remittances of such revenue.
Mr Orji also warned that NEITI would no longer watch while these debts continue to remain in its reports unaddressed, stating that it would provide all necessary information and data to sister agencies saddled with the responsibilities of recovering the debts into government coffers.
He added that the agency would also share the information and data with partner anti-corruption agencies with whom it had signed memoranda of understanding (MoU).