Feb. 17 - Suspicions of massive fraud at the heart of one of the world's most opaque state oil companies has put pressure on Nigeria's President a year ahead of elections. As Sonia Legg reports he was already facing criticism for failing to quell a northern Islamist insurgency.
It's Africa's biggest oil producer and has been tipped as a market to watch. But Nigeria has many problems - corruption being one of the biggest. The latest scandal has pitted the central bank's governor against the state's main oil company. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MALLAM LAMIDO SANUSI, NIGERIA'S CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR, SAYING: "All that we have said as Central Bank and I think there is no disagreement, is that NNPC shipped 67 billion dollars worth of crude, they have repatriated or we have established that 47 billion dollars has come back to the federation. There is a 20 billion dollars that has not come back. The burden of proof is on NNPC." A forensic audit of fuel subsidy payments has now been ordered. But the crisis has spooked some investors. One Lagos lawyer say it's worrying on two counts. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ONYEBUCHI EMEMANKA, LAWYER SAYING: "What kind of economy do we run that 20 billion dollars gets missing in one fell swoop? It also raises issues about the integrity and personality of the people who occupy strategic positions, the office of the CBN governor is a very strategic one, his words are taken seriously by Nigerians, economic watchers and the international community." It's not the first time the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has been criticised over alleged subsidy scams. And with elections next year it could damage the president. Goodluck Jonathan is already under pressure for not tackling an Islamist insurgency. This - says Transparency International - could be another political obstacle. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AUWAL MUSA RASFANJANI, SPOKESPERSON, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL NIGERIA, SAYING: "No government can afford to let this continue so we are surprised that even the president is not worried you know about this diversion of this revenue that is supposed to come to the federation account but ending up in some individual or private pocket." NNPC has consistently denied any wrong-doing. It says it subsidises kerosene to help the poor. And there are plenty in need of help. Nigeria's economy is expected to grow but so is the number of people living in poverty.