The House of Representatives has alleged that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) was in receipt of funds accrued from the sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil in a China deal without remitting same to the federation account.
Chairman, House of Representatives Adhoc committee investigating the ‘Alleged Loss of Over $2.4 Billion in Revenue from Illegal Sale of 48 Million Barrels of Crude Oil Export in 2015 Including, All Crude Oil Exports and Sales by Nigeria from 2014 Till Date’ Hon. Mark Gbillah gave the hints while addressing invitees at a public hearing of the panel.
He said that the hearing was as a result of intelligence from a whistle-blower.
Gbillah regretted that Malami and other officials of government earlier invited to the public were absent and to that end, the Committee issued a summons to them for appearance at a later date to answer to the issue of crude oil sales and the loss of over $2.4 bilion revenue.
Those summoned outside Malami included the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission, NEITI, oil and gas companies who engaged in export, and the Oriental Energy Limited who was given one week ultimatum to provide all necessary details regarding its involvement in crude oil lifting and sales within the period under review.
He said: “We are looking at the issues that have to do with allegations of 48 million of crude oil barrels sold in China. We are looking at the issue of Crude oil export in general from Nigeria for the period under review. We are also looking at the whistleblower revelations and recoveries, which the federal government publicly declared that they have made recoveries.
“It’s unfortunate that the Minister of Finance is not here, the Attorney General of the Federation is not here.
“This is a formal request from the committee that they should appear before this committee because they have received formal invitation to do so. And a lot of what we have to investigate regards to whistleblower policy is saddled within the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney General of the federation.
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“There are responses received from the accountant general’s office which shows that the Minister of Finance has been approving payments to whistleblowers in percentages at variance with the policy says they should be paid.
“There have been allegations of the Attorney General being involved also in the receipt of funds from outside the country without these funds being remitted into the federation account in line with the provisions of the constitution.
“There have been allegations that there has been expenditure from these recoveries been done in complete violation of the provisions of the constitution,” he said.
Gbillah further revealed that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) agencies of government operate their Treasury Single Account and make expenditures without recourse to the CBN.
“The CBN made a formal response to this committee indicating that. You see the TSA policy of this administration agencies operate their Treasury Single Account (TSA) and make expenditure from these accounts without recourse to the CBN.
“This is something that’s alarming for the CBN to declare before us, because we are aware of constitutional provisions that state all revenue accruing to the federation must be paid into the federation account.
“So, if there are recoveries being made from whistleblower, these monies need to be paid into the account of the federation as required by law.
“So, we are inviting Minister of Finance, the Attorney General of the federation, Secretary to the government of the Federation and stakeholders in the implementation of the whistleblower policy to appear before the committee to provide clarification on the operation of this policy and the approvals being made by the finance minister.
“In regards to the issue of crude oil, we are expecting the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission, NEITI, oil and gas companies who operate fuel stations and engage in export.
“The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Accountant General himself to be present including the budget office of the Federation to be present and provide clarification,” Gbillah added.
Declaring the hearing open earlier, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila represented by Hon. Isiaka Ibrahim decried the rate of corruption in Nigeria.
“Nigeria’s revenue to GDP ratio is below 5% which is rated amongst the five lowest countries in the world and it is reported that about 700 million dollar worth of Crude Oil is lost to oil theft monthly in Nigeria. In January and July 2022 alone, Nigeria lost 10 billion dollars to the crime. Available data shows that the country may lose 23 billion dollars this year to Crude Oil theft with concerns being expressed about the possibility of meeting 2023 proposed production target of 1.69 million barrels per day due to the myriad of issues militating against the attainment of this target, such vandalism, in-accurate reconciliation, insecurity and unreasonable operational cost.
“In the light of dwindling revenue accruing to Nigeria from crude oil sales, it was quite alarming to learn about whistleblower allegations that over $2.4 billion in possible revenue by the country was lost from the sale of 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s crude oil cargoes in China.
“Corruption continues to be the bane of Nigeria’s development with Nigeria ranking 150th out of 180 countries in the most recent Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).
“While it is commendable that this administration introduced a whistleblower policy in 2016 and has confirmed recovery of significant proceeds of corruption from its implementation, the policy is without statutory backing and the receipt and expenditure of these proceeds does appear to conform with constitutional provisions and the payment of compensation does not appear to be transparent.
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“The recommendation of the Committee after its investigation will no doubt, guide the House in making an informed decision in considering the Whistle-Blower Bill currently before it. The legislation when passed into law will address mirage of issues associated with the implementation of the policy as well as take adequate care of the whistle-Blowers involved, which is very significant in the success of the policy and law when passed. Let me state emphatically, that whistle-blowers that volunteered information to this Honourable House will receive the maximum legislative protection and confidentiality”, he said.
In a presentation, the Federal Commissioner, Monitoring and Inspection at the Code of Conduct Bureau, Johnson Agbobayinma said Nigeria was bleeding.
“I am happy with what you are doing because Nigeria belongs to all of us. I came here because of the respect I have for this committee. I wouldn’t have come because we are sitting on a keg of a gunpowder.
“Nigeria is bleeding the cabal has derailed the wheels of progress of this country. So, I want you to understand. I am support of what you are doing, I will give you the necessary support,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group of protesters known as the George Uboh Whistleblowers Network, led one Peter Umoh stormed the main gate of the national assembly, protesting against the setting up of the probe panel.
Displaying banners with various inscriptions against the committee’s sitting, the group said the panel did not follow due process.
It therefore called on the panel to halt its proceedings forthwith.
“The Whistleblowers who furnished Hon Mark Gbillah the information germane to the 48million barrels of crude oil stolen did not file any petition to the National Assembly for any investigation or hearing, neither were they called as witnesses to testify during the hearing.
“Because Gbillah did not follow this sacrosanct due process, the purported public hearing by the Ad – hoc committee is a sham predicated on unilateral action driven by greed. Therefore, we the whistleblowers at this protest, authoritatively assert that the National Assembly does not hear or deliberate on any matter in court.
“Two different competent courts of jurisdictions, are already handling the case filed against the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari to account for proceeds from the stolen crude oil which are roughly estimated to be $2.4billion at $50 per barrel and $4.8billion at $100per barrel.
“Hon Gbillah led Ad – Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives should therefore hand off the matter by not sitting or carrying out any public hearing on it”, the leader, Umoh said.