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N135bn gas loan: Senate panel goes after defaulters

The Senate Committee on Gas Resources probing the N135bn Central Bank of Nigeria intervention funds to some firms in the oil and gas sector has…

The Senate Committee on Gas Resources probing the N135bn Central Bank of Nigeria intervention funds to some firms in the oil and gas sector has threatened to involve the anti-graft agencies to recover the money from defaulting beneficiaries.

The panel gave the threat when the affected companies, numbering 14, appeared before it yesterday to defend the utilisation of the loans they collected.

The committee members described as unacceptable the lack of synergy between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the CBN on the project.

They also queried the discriminatory disbursement of the funds to the beneficiaries and wondered why some firms collected more than the N10bn credit limit.

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The chairman of the committee, Senator Agom Jarigbe, lamented that the funds released under the gas expansion and intervention fund were inappropriately accessed.

He said, “The observation of the committee is that there are inconsistencies in the process and the committee may not hesitate to involve the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to recover the funds.

“Some of the beneficiaries did not follow the guidelines. For instance, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources is not even aware that the funds have been released.

“We have also discovered that some of the companies do not have anything on the ground since they got the loan.

“The committee would investigate all the observations and work on them and let Nigerians know the true position of things,” Jarigbe added.

However, the legal adviser to one of the beneficiaries, Lee Engineering and Construction Company, Mathew Agbadon, said the publication made by the committee had put the firm in a negative perspective.

He said, “There has been a fundamental misconception out there in the public domain that some people just leverage on the CBN money, stole it, and went away.

“That is far from the truth. The truth of the matter is that as a beneficiary of that scheme, we had business with the commercial bank.

“The discussion was done at the commercial bank level and due diligence was done and our application was approved.”

The Ministry of Petroleum in 2021 initiated the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP) to encourage domestic utilisation of gas in the country.

The Director of Gas in the ministry, Oluremi Komolafe, told the committee that the ministry was not aware of the disbursement of the fund even though it partnered with the CBN on the scheme.

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