By Daniel Magnowski
The Central Bank of Nigeria is concerned the country hasn’t saved enough from its oil income and is seeking greater oversight of Finance Ministry operations.
“It is natural for the CBN to be concerned at the low level of accretion to reserves and the Excess Crude Account in spite of strong international oil prices,” Ugochukwu Okoroafor, a spokesman for the bank, said in a statement on its website.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer of crude, relies on oil and gas for about 80 percent of government revenue and 95 percent of foreign-currency earnings. It uses the Excess Crude Account to save oil revenue that comes in above the benchmark budgeted price, using it to plug income shortfalls caused by market volatility or output disruptions.
Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said Oct. 31 that the ECA had a balance of just under $5 billion, down from about $9 billion at the beginning of the year. The spot price of Nigeria’s benchmark Qua Iboe crude has exceeded $100 a barrel for most of the year, above the $79 budgeted. It was $112.11 a barrel as of 7:11 a.m. London time today.
Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., the state oil company, has been accused of withholding $49.8 billion of revenue earned from January 2012 to July this year, ThisDay newspaper reported Dec. 10, citing a September letter from CBN Governor Lamido Sanusi to President Goodluck Jonathan.
The bank has refused to comment on whether a letter was sent to Jonathan. The NNPC has denied the allegations.
The Petroleum Ministry has mandated PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit NNPC revenue, according to the bank, which said a team comprising Finance Ministry, central bank and NNPC officials may also be set up to study the matter.
The bank would welcome “greater oversight of the Finance Ministry over oil revenues and improvements in disclosure and transparency in the oil industry,” Okoroafor said in the statement dated yesterday.