Nigeria’s government auditor and PwC would need between 12 and 16 weeks to “clarify” what happened to billions of dollars of oil revenue that was alleged to be missing, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said yesterday.

The auditing company, based in New York, would help the government of Africa’s biggest oil producer to find crude proceeds probably not accounted for, she told delegates at the World Economic Forum on Africa in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi, who said there were missing funds, had been suspended for alleged “financial recklessness and misconduct”, President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, said in a February 20 statement. He was replaced by his deputy, Sarah Alade, as acting governor.

The announcement halted bond trading and sent the naira to a record low.

Sanusi wrote to Jonathan late last year alleging that the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had retained almost $50 billion (R524bn) in revenue that was due to the government. He later amended the figure to $12bn at a news briefing with the finance minister before raising it to $20bn at a February 4 meeting with legislators. The NNPC has denied the allegations.

Jonathan’s office said that under Sanusi’s watch the central bank had been “distracted” from its mandate. – Bloomberg