· Why I Can’t Disclose Whistleblowers’ Identity-AGF
· Alleged Illegal Sale Of 40 Million Barrels Of Crude Oil Baseless- Malami
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has finally made an appearance before the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee probing the alleged loss of over $2.4 billion realized from the illegal sale of 40 million barrels of crude oil.
While appearing before the committee on Thursday, Malami described the allegation as baseless.
The Matrix had reported that sometime in December 2022, the House of Representatives set up an ad hoc committee to investigate a whistleblower’s claims that 48 million barrels of Bonny Light crude were illegally sold in China in 2015.
The committee was also mandated to investigate all crude oil exports and sales in Nigeria from 2014 till date as well as all proceeds recovered through the whistleblower policy of the federal government.
Consequently, the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Oil Theft invited several high-ranking officials in the Federal Government to assist in unravelling the mystery.
Those to be grilled in relation to the issue are Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Zainab Ahmed, Minister Of Finance, Budget and National Planning; and Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Also summoned are the acting Accountant General of the Federation, Sylva Okolieaboh; and officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), among others.
Malami, however, drew the ire of the committee over his failure to appear before the committee.
While finally appearing before the committee on Thursday, Malami said the “purported” sale of the product was “baseless and unfounded”. He disclosed that after investigating the allegation, it was observed that the origin of the crude allegedly lost in China was unknown, this was communicated to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister said there was no substance in the whistleblower report that propelled the investigation by the ad hoc committee.
“Let me state on record and for the benefit of Nigerians and the committee that the allegations relating to the 48 million barrels are baseless. The allegation is unfounded. It lacks merit and indeed substance,” the minister said.
“The allegation in its own right is devoid of any reasonable ground pointing to a material suspicion cogent enough to invoke the constitutional oversight of the committee.
“Sometimes in 2016, allegations were rife and hyped in social media. There were allegations of the existence of stolen 48 million barrels of Nigerian crude in China said to have been valued at N2.4 billion.”
The minister said at the time, President Muhammadu Buhari “informally” requested him, Mele Kyari, Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited; Lawal Daura, the then Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS); and late Abba Kyari to “look into” the allegation.
“But unfortunately, for there to be a reasonable ground for suspicion, at least, you require certain basic facts. The basic details of the existence of the product and connecting it to Nigeria were not there at all,” he said.
“The vessel perhaps that took it, the particulars and details of the vessel — were not available at our disposal at all.
“So, the issue is simple. There were no reasonable grounds for suspicion of the fact that the purported oil product either exists in spirit or in fact or indeed exists in China — and it is in no way connected to Nigeria. And all efforts on our part to get details have proven abortive.
“So, it was a committee that was dead on arrival because it has not been formally constituted and then our informal findings do not suggest or provide information that could support (the sale of the crude oil”.
“So, we could not establish the substance in the allegation because detail information to confirm the existence and origin of the shipment such as a sample of the oil, vessel involved loading point, and location of the crude in China were not provided.”
Malami said no further action was taken by his office after it was reported to the President that the “veracity of the allegation” could not be verified.
The AGF also informed the lawmakers that details of the whistle-blowers as requested by the committee cannot be disclosed at a public hearing because it breached confidentiality and indeed the whistle-blower policy.
With regard to details of accounts into which recovered monies were paid, he said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) maintained these accounts which are operated by the Ministry of Finance, maintained in the apex bank and that the AGF is not a signatory.
Malami also denied receiving funds through the whistleblower policy which he didn’t remit to the government.
The committee had said it obtained reports that the minister recovered funds through the policy without remitting them to the federation account.
The lawmakers had also alleged that the minister was involved in the payment of $200 million to two companies for “consultancy service”.
But Malami told the committee that his office does not receive funds on behalf of the government, noting that the ministry of finance that coordinates the policy makes “all payments to whistleblowers”.
“The details of the international account, expenditure, and statement of accounts are obtainable from the Central Bank of Nigeria. The office of the Attorney-General does not maintain the custody of an account. Associated recoveries are maintained by the CBN and open on the request of the office of the attorney-general,” he said.
“As far as being a signatory or in any way being responsible in the management of such account is concerned, the office of the attorney general is in no way connected whatsoever. The Federal Ministry of Finance and the Office of Accountant General are exclusive custodians, managers and operators of the account.”
After his presentation, Ibrahim Isiaka, who presided over the sitting, ruled that the minister provide detailed documents to the committee.