Malami: $2.4bn Crude Oil Sale Loss Allegation Lacks Merit
By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, yesterday countered claims that the country lost over $2.4 billion revenue from alleged illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil exported to China in 2015.
Malami faulted the allegations during the resumed Ad-hoc Committee investigation on the alleged sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil amounting to over $2.4 billion and crude oil export to global destinations from 2014 to date.
Malami who is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation described the allegations as baseless, unfounded, lack merit and substance.
The House had in December last year resolved to constitute an ad-hoc committee to probe the allegation when it adopted a motion sponsored by Isiaka Ibrahim from Ogun State, at plenary.
The committee was also mandated to 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.
Ibrahim had said in the motion that, “a whistle-blower 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 then Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to sell the cargo.”
But speaking at the hearing yesterday, Malami said that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation had filed a criminal suit against the individuals who purportedly raised the allegations being investigated by the Ad-hoc Committee.
According to him, the Individuals had attempted to defraud the Federal Government under the guise that the alleged crude oil stolen in China had been recovered.
Malami explained that the ongoing investigation initiated by the House was unconstitutional and subjudice, and argued that the prosecution of the petitioners which started in 2019 suffered setback as a result of series of adjournment caused by the absence of the accused persons.
He 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.
“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 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.
“Why do I say so? Sometimes in 2016 allegations were rife and hyped in the social media. There were allegations of existence of stolen 48 million barrels of Nigerian crude in China said to have been valued at 2.4 billion.
“President Muhammadu Buhari informally requested the attorney-general, making reference to my humble person, Mele Kyari, Lawal Daura, former DG of DSS; and late Abba Kyari; to look into it and advise. But unfortunately, for there to be a reasonable ground for suspicion, at least, you require certain basic facts.
“If you’re talking of a product, you cannot establish the substance relating thereto, without confirming the origin of the purported product in China. If you talk about a product in China. Is it of Nigerian origin? That can be ascertained by sample and specifications. Is it Bonny Light for example, which you know emanate from Nigeria or what is it.
“The basic details of the existence of the product and connecting it to Nigeria was not there at all. If you are talking of a product, the vessel perhaps that has taken it, what are the particulars and details of the vessel. There were not available at our disposal at all.
“Which authority is it that has taken custody of the product? There was no information at all. So the issue is simple. There were no reasonable grounds for suspicion of the fact that the purported oil product either exist in spirit or in fact or in indeed exist in China — and it is in no way connected to Nigeria. And all effort 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.
“So, we could not establish the substance in the allegation because detail information to confirm the existence and origin of of the shipment such as sample of the oil, vessel involved loading point etc, location of the crude in China etc were not provided
“So, we reported to the president that we were unable to confirm the veracity of the allegation hence no further action was taken by my office,” he said.
He further disclosed that the OAGF was instrumental to the recovery of various sums of fund which were deposited in the Asset Recovery Account domiciled with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
These include: $322 million recovered from Switzerland in 2016; $311.4 million from US/UK; $15.4 million Abacha Loot recovered in 2020 from Northern Ireland; £12.2 billion recovered from Ibori; $20 million recovered from Licosta as well as £954 recovered from Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, respectively.
While responding to question on the recovered funds, payment and disbursement, he said: “Ministry of Finance is the coordinator of the whistle blower policy and all payments to Whistle blower are made by the federal ministry of finance, budget and national planning.
“It should be noted that whistle blowing thrives on confidentiality and protection of information. Therefore, disclosure the details of whistle blowers at a public hearing breaches the confidentiality provision of which the office of the attorney general was committed to on the account of personal security and the national security.
“So, arising from that consideration, I have taken pains to develop information taking into consideration the confidentiality element of it but providing same for the consideration of the committee exclusively.”
He explained that the details of international account, expenditure and statement of accounts are obtainable from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“For the information of the committee, the office of the Attorney-General does not maintain the custody of an account of associated recoveries are maintained by the Central Bank and open on the request of the office of Attorney General and then open on the directives of office of the Accountant General.
“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.
“Whatsoever information that may be required as it connects to the details of the signatories, details for the management, details of the disbursement associated with the recoveries accounts, I suggest that the Federal Ministry of Finance, the office of Accountant General are exclusive custodians, managers and operators of the account, no the office of the Attorney General.
“What I am saying in essence is that reference or details, signatories, disbursement, associated information on all the recovery accounts should be routed to the Central Bank, office of the Accountant General and indeed, the Federal Ministry of Finance that are the operators, maintainers, custodians of this account in question,” Malami added.
The Whistleblower is believed to be one Marco Antonio Ramirez, an American businessman, who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for an alleged $368,698.24 fraud before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos could not continue today, April 26, 2023, due to the absence of the defence counsel, Lawal Pedro, SAN.
The EFCC is prosecuting Ramirez on an amended nine-count charge alongside his companies: USA NOW LLC, Eagle Ford Instalodge Group LP, and USA NOW Energy Capital Group LP.
“Marco Antonio Ramirez, USA NOW LLC, and USA Now Energy Capital Group LP, on or about the 26th day of July, 2013 at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, with intent to defraud, obtained the sum of $250,000 from Gabriel Ogie Edeoghon under the false representation that the sum was his investment in your company:
“USA Now Energy Capital Group LP in the Employment-Based Fifth Preference (EB-5) United States of America Investor Programme, which investment would qualify him to be eligible to a USA Green Card, and which representation you knew to be false,” one of the counts read.
Again, Tribunal Steps Down Obi’s Petition
For the third time, the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, was forced to step down hearing in the petition filed by Mr Peter Gregory Obi and the Labour Party, LP, against the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The petition was stepped down by the court following a poor schedule of documents being sought to be tendered to establish the allegations of malpractices during the February 25 presidential election.
At yesterday’s proceedings, the court discovered that the documents were not properly scheduled as ordered by the Court.
In the drama that ensued at the point of rendering the documents from the 23 local government areas of Benue, a lot of discrepancies were uncovered.
All efforts to reconcile the anomaly and reschedule the documents were unsuccessful as the errors were beyond immediate solution.
To save the situation, counsel to Obi and the Labour Party, Chief Emeka Okpoko SAN, sought to use documents not filed to conduct the proceedings, but the move was rejected on the ground of illegality.
In the end, the court stepped down hearing of the petition and ordered the legal team to go and re-file the schedule of documents in line with the provisions of the pre-hearing report.
The hearing of Obi’s petition had run into stormy waters three times, prompting the shift in the hearing of the petition.
At the time of this report, Peter Obi and the Vice Presidential candidate, Datti Baba Ahmed, were in the court as their lawyers were running helter-skelter to the Registry of the Court to file a new schedule of documents.
Meanwhile, the five Justices led by Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani hearing the petition have retired to their chambers to await when the legal team will put its house in order.
In Maiden Meeting, Crush Oil Thieves Now, Tinubu Orders Service Chiefs
By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
President Bola Tinubu, yesterday met with the Service Chiefs and heads of security and intelligence agencies and told them that he would change the security architecture of the country to blend with his philosophy to address the insecurity challenges across the federation.
The President also said as far as he is concerned, ‘Nigeria should not go on her knees as a result of security challenges while other countries are working, moving forward and recording tremendous achievements.’
Tinubu stated this in his maiden official meeting with Security and intelligence heads led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor at the Presidential Villa, Abuja as the the National Security Adviser, NSA, Major Gen.Babagana Monguno (retd), who briefed State House correspondents after the meeting that lasted two hours, said the President has directed heads of security agencies to come out with their blue prints.
He ordered the security agencies to crush anyone involved in oil theft, stressing that his administration will not tolerate such menace.
“He is going to embark on a lot of reforms in terms of our security architecture, he is going to take a closer look at our misfortunes in the maritime domain, focusing particularly on the issues of oil theft, that as far as he is concerned, he is not going to tolerate oil theft wherever the problem is coming from it must be crushed as soon as possible,” he stated.
He has already mandated the security agencies to come up with a blueprint as far as he knows and as far as he concerned, he doesn’t have the luxury of time; and whatever changes will be made have to be done as soon as possible.
“The President also has decided that whatever ventures the armed forces are going to be engaged in, they must carry along those operatives in the theatre. They must be well fed, well kitted, motivated and given all that they require.
He said it was an appraisal meeting for the President to get briefing on the activities of the different security formations and for him to tell them his own philosophy and what he expects from the security heads.
“The President and Commander in Chief of the armed forces has just concluded a meeting of the general security appraisal committee consisting of the Chief of Staff, Service Chiefs, Inspector General of Police, and heads of the intelligence agencies.
“This is the very first meeting he’s had with the heads of the security agencies. The meeting lasted for two hours.
“Having been briefed by the participants of the meeting, Mr. President, addressed prevailing issues confronting the nation in terms of insecurity and also mentioned his own philosophy towards dealing with national security issues.
“First and foremost, he appreciated the armed forces and intelligence agencies and the wider paramilitary agencies for the work they have been doing in the past couple of years. Their sacrifice, their loyalty, and he also paid tribute to those who died in defending this country, from the great big menace of terrorism, insurgency banditry, oil theft, sea robbery, piracy, etc.
“The President has made it very clear that he’s determined to build on whatever gains that have been made and to reverse misfortunes and turn the tide in our favour.
“As far as he’s concerned, this country should not be on its knees struggling while other countries are working and achieving greater heights,” he said.
President Tinubu said in moving the country forward he needs the security agencies to redouble their efforts, stressing that his own philosophy is one of contemporary security measures dealing with the requirements of the time.
“He has made it very clear that he will not accept a situation in which our fortunes keep declining. And his own trajectory is that national security has to be coordinated, there has to be whatever…whether it is a basket system, but there must be a clearing house.
“All agencies must work to achieve one single purpose. Working at cross purposes and colliding with each other is not something that he will condone. He has made it very, very clear that all the security agencies must comply with the demands of coordination, with the demands of frequent consultations and also timely reports which must be acted on.
“President has said clearly that he will do whatever is within his powers to enable the operational elements but the intelligence agencies must also make their work easy for them by providing the type of intelligence that they require to carry out the assignment,” the NSA said.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has mandated his security chiefs to draw up a fresh blueprint that would guide security operations in the country.
Tinubu, who met with the security chiefs in the country for the first time since assuming office, yesterday, said he had a personal philosophy about how security issues should be handled for effective results.
Obi, LP Challenge Election Results in Rivers, Benue, Niger, 15 Other States
The Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the February 25 presidential election, Mr Peter Gregory Obi and his party confirmed to the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) yesterday in Abuja that they would challenge the election results in 18 states only.
They held that they would not dissipate energies in the states where they won convincingly and without any dispute.
However, at the end of proceedings, Obi and his party tendered certified electoral documents obtained from the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC in only six states.
The documents, mainly, Forms EC8A, election results from polling units were admitted as exhibits to be used to establish their alleged riggings and other malpractices during the election.
Presiding Justice of the Court, Haruna Simon Tsammani admitted the documents as exhibits after they were tendered by Chief Emeka Okpoko SAN who represented Obi and the Labour Party.
Meanwhile, INEC, represented by Kemi Pinhero SAN, issued the documents and certified them as genuine but dramatically announced its decision to object to the admission of the documents.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his Vice, Kashim Shetima, who are 2nd and 3rd respondents and represented by Adebayo Adelodun SAN in the petition challenging their declaration as winners of the election, also hinted to oppose the admissibility of the electoral documents.
Similarly, the All Progressives Congress, APC, represented by Chief Afolabi Fashanu, SAN, argued that it would raise objections against the documents.
Breakdown of the tendered and admitted documents showed that Forms EC8A were tendered in 15 Local Government Areas of Rivers State, 23 in Benue, 18 in Cross River, 23 in Niger State, 20 in Osun and 16 in Ekiti Local Government Areas.
A further hearing in the petition has been shifted to June today by the Court at the instance of the two petitioners.
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