The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the recovery of outstanding debts owed to the federal government by oil and gas companies has told them to pay, threatening to sanction them.
Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, who heads the 18-member committee, in an interview on Tuesday, in Abuja, said Nigeria could no longer rely on loans to fund major projects.
“We cannot continue to borrow money. It is an infraction when people withhold levies, taxes or any other payments; it does not happen anywhere, so we can’t be borrowing money while some people owe us,” Mrs Onyejeocha said.
She added that it would be in the companies’ interest to appear before the committee and clear their names, noting that they had been given enough time to pay the debts.
“I don’t know why people don’t come when invited for investigation, but the rule will apply in this case. People owe and there is evidence to show that they owe, and if you don’t pay that shows you are violating certain laws of the land,” she stressed.
Mrs Onyejeocha also mentioned that any company found guilty in the business agreement would have to face the law, adding that “there is no crime without punishment, so if we find you culpable of violating the business agreement, you have to pay for it.”
She disclosed that after investigation, the committee would ensure that companies that did business with Nigeria but failed to remit taxes, levies or royalty are penalised.
The investigation is based on the National Extractive Industries Extractive Initiative (NEITI) report that 77 oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria owed the federal government over N2.6 trillion.
The committee had invited the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and other agencies for investigation.