by Benson Agoha
The office of the President of Nigeria, yesterday denied reports that President Goodluck Jonathan comfirmed the withholding of the missing $10bn oil money from the federation account of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Nigeria's Finance Minister was suspended from office last month as a result of the outcry that followed former President Olusegun Obasanjo's open letter to the incumbent.
The denial followed reports in the Nigerian media that President Jonathan, who was attending the Nuclear Security Summit, at The Hague, the Netherlands with other world leaders, had confirmed to Nigerian residents in the country that the NNPC withheld the money from the Federation Account.
In a swift response, Reuben Abati, Special Adviser to the President, Media & Publicity, said reports that President Jonathan confirmed the missing money was false.
The presidential aid said in a press release published on his official website that "reports in some domestic media today which quoted President Goodluck Jonathan as "confirming" in Amsterdam, that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) wrongly withheld $10 Billion from the federation account are "completely false," and a "total distortion of the President's comments during his meeting with the Nigerian community in the Netherlands."
He said at no time, during the well-attended reception, did President Jonathan also confirm any "irregularities" in the NNPC.
The release said sensational reports in the media to that effect are "reckless, mischievous and unprofessional misrepresentations of the President's restatement to the Nigerian community of the Federal Government's position on the allegation that $20 Billion is "missing" from the NNPC or the Federation Account."
Wondeering why reporters who were not at the event or even in Holland at all could fabricate stories like that, Presidential Aid said President Jonathan's verifiable words, while responding to questions from members of the community on the allegation and other domestic issues were "clear and unambiguous."
According to Reuben Abati, after asserting that allegation that various sums - $49.8 Billion, $12 Billion or $20 Billion - were missing are inconsistent and lacked credence, the President's exact words were as follows:
"As at the time, the Finance Ministry was saying they had not been able to reconcile only 10 billion dollars. There are issues in NNPC but we are on it."
Adding that President Jonathan said so to reassure Nigerians of his administration's continued commitment to openness, transparency and probity in the aftermath of the unsubstantiated allegations, adding, the Federal Government had authorised a professional forensic audit of NNPC's accounts to clear the air.
Abati said the Presidency deplores the mischievous and unethical distortion of his comments in the media today, urging them "to show greater regard for truth and accuracy when reporting on the President."
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