There were indications that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have concluded its investigation into the alleged unlawful payment of severance benefits to the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, and the company’s Chief Financial Officer, Umar Ajiya.
The national oil behemoth had requested that the anti-corruption agency investigate the claims’ veracity in order to determine whether or not the allegations were true.
However, when THISDAY sought an update on the situation, a senior NNPC official who wished to remain anonymous stated that the anti-corruption agency had dismissed the claims of illicit payments of billions of naira to the two officials as “false and without foundation.”
The source stated that the allegations lacked merit, prompting the anti-corruption agency to suspend further investigation into the matter.
“There was no reason for the EFCC to continue wasting time on a baseless investigation. The EFCC discovered that the billions of naira cited as payment for the GCEO and CFO’s severance benefits were far in excess of what was actually paid out.
In reality, the amount in question was less than N90 million, and by law, the two officials were entitled to severance pay, according to a source.
Similarly to how the chairman of the EFCC was appointed from within the organisation to lead the Commission, Kyari and Ajiya were appointed from the old NNPC following the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
Still comparing the two positions, the source stated that although the EFCC chairman did not collect his own severance benefits for the purpose of safekeeping, he requested that the severance benefit be paid to him following the conclusion of his tenure as chairman of the organisation.
“Therefore, the payment of severance benefits to a government appointee is not a new issue,” the source explained.
When the investors discovered that the payments were genuine entitlements, they voluntarily closed the case, according to the findings.
“As we speak, neither Kyari nor Ajiya is under investigation by the EFCC or any other security agency that I am aware of. Behind these vile allegations are vested interests seeking an opportunity to tarnish the reputations of two senior NNPC officials, according to the source.
Another prominent industry source in Abuja speculated that the renewed attack on the duo might be related to the politics encircling the new government transition.
“You are aware that a new government is forming, and desperate measures are being taken to destroy the reputations of political appointees in order to create employment for some individuals. In the case of Kyari and Ajiya, some individuals are already vying for their positions and believe that smear campaigns will help them achieve their goals, said the source.
The development may also be related to the ongoing reforms at NNPC, according to the source, which have closed so many loopholes at the new company.
“Many individuals who are accustomed to cutting corners are dissatisfied, and they are prepared to use any available means to tarnish the reputation of these key managers in the organisation,” the source explained.
According to sources close to Kyari, the NNPC chief has resolved not to be distracted by the allegation, emphasising that the GCEO is entirely committed to advancing the national oil company.
“The administration of the NNPC is unwaveringly committed to preventing any disruptions in the operation of the oil company. It is committed to putting the company on the path to profitability and implementing a globally acceptable governance structure that will promote transparency and accountability within the system,” the statement continued.