Reps Probe Illegal Sale Of 48m Barrels of Crude Oil
By Gloria Essien, Abuja
The House of Representatives says it is set to unravel the circumstances that led to the loss of over $2.4 billion revenue from alleged illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil exported in 2015.
This was disclosed at the inaugural investigative hearing of the House Ad-hoc committee investigating the allegation, in Abuja.
The hearing was sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by Hon Isiaka Ibrahim, which led to the setting up of the Ad-hoc committee to probe the allegation.
The committee was mandated to also investigate all crude oil exports and sales by Nigeria from 2014 till date with regards to quantity, insurance, revenue generated, remittances into the federation accounts or other accounts as well as utilisation of the revenue for the period under review.
In the motion, Hon Ibrahim had said that: “a whistleblower alleged in July 2020 that he had in July 2015, brought to the attention of a committee purportedly set up by the President for the recovery of missing crude oil exports, the existence of 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s Bonny Light crude oil in storage at several ports in China, under the authorisation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to sell the cargo”.
The chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Hon Mark Gbillah, in his remarks said the panel will engage local and foreign stakeholders to get to the roots of the matter
He also assured the whistleblowers of adequate protection in the course of the exercise.
Hon Gbillah also appealed to international partners of Nigeria such as the United States, Mexican and the Chinese government to give the committee the cooperation required and it would visit some of the countries to obtain the facts behind the matter.
The lawmaker commended the President Muhammadu Buhari administration for bringing forth the whistleblower though he and the Minister of Finance recently admitted that it has not been successful in terms of the amount of revelation that they expected and the recoveries expected.
“The Committee takes very seriously issues that have to do with allegations. We owe Nigerians the benefit of doubt in line with our Constitution. We owe them a duty of care to ensure that we unravel the facts of the matter before we start to make any assertions. It is obviously going to be important for us to arrive at the conclusion and provide a substantive report that would obviously be in the records and would determine whether or not these issues transpired. In carrying out our functions, one of the things we are going to need to do would be to interview those who made those allegations. Some of them have reached out to the committee alleging threat to their lives. They were intimidated at gun point allegedly. So we will have to travel out of the country to the United States, to Mexico, to China. The leadership of the house is in support of this committee arriving at the truth and the facts of the matter. And it shows the seriousness of this house in addressing issues that have to do with the commonwealth of Nigerians.”
“We want to assure all the whistleblowers who have revelations to provide to this honourable committee that their information would be treated in the strictest level of confidence as it is done all over the world. We can receive evidence behind closed doors before we make them public because we too are concerned about spurious and false allegations.
“We are also keen as a house on very quickly enacting the whistleblower bill. We know the executive has been working on one but it appears to be taking them a lot of time to do.
“Where these crude oil sales allegedly took place, those who were involved, who claimed they were entitled to some percentage of the amount when these sales tool place, they are being very helpful in providing us with the names of some of the individuals who were allegedly in this matter but for the sake of confidentiality and seriousness of this matter, we might not be able to divulge that information until we obtain the facts.
“They have told us they have video recordings, photographs of the meetings, documentation to show email trail and discussions and even bank account statements of very highly placed people where these transactions tool place” he said.
A member of the committee, Hon Ganiyu Johnson explained that as part of efforts to revive the various refineries in the country, the House Committee on the state of refineries visited some of the refineries and gave assurances that the PortHarcout and Warri refineries will be coming into full operation by first and last quarters of next year.