Malami to Reps: $2.4bn Diversion Claim Baseless, Lacks Merit
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has told the House of Representatives that the allegation that 48 million barrels of crude oil valued at over $2.4bn were sold to China is false.
Malami stated this on Thursday when he, in company with the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice/Solicitor-General of the Federation, Beatrice Jedy-Agba, appeared before the House’s Ad Hoc Committee to investigate alleged loss of over $2.4Bn in revenue from the 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.
In his presentation, Malami said, “Mr Chairman, 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 is lacking in merit, and indeed lacking in substance. It is in its own right – the allegation – devoid of any reasonable grounds pointing to a material suspicion that is cogent enough to invoke the constitutional oversight of the committee.
“Why do I say so? Sometime in 2016, allegations were rife and hyped in social media. There were allegations of the existence of stolen 48 million barrels of Nigerian crude oil in China, said to have been valued at $2.4bn. President Muhammadu Buhari informally requested the Attorney General – making reference to my humble person, (the then Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) Mele Kyari; former Director General, Department of State Services, Lawal Daura; and the late Abba Kyari (the then Chief of Staff to the President) to look into it and advise.
“But unfortunately, Mr Chairman, for there to be reasonable grounds for suspicion, at least you require certain basic facts. If you are talking of a product, you cannot establish the substance relating thereto without confirming the origin of the purported product in China. If you talk of a product in China, is it of Nigerian origin? That can be established by way of sample and specification. Is it Bonny Light, which you know apparently emanates from Nigeria? The basic detail of the existence of the product and connecting it to Nigeria was not there at all.”
The AGF added that there were no particulars of the vessels that transported the fuel to China.
“They were not available at our disposal at all,” he stated, adding that no Chinese authorities confirmed receipt and custody of the product in China.
Malami stated, “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, it exists in China but is in no way connected to Nigeria. All efforts on our part to get details had proven abortive.
“So, it was a committee that was dead on arrival because it had not been formally constituted and our informal findings did not support, suggest or provide information that could support (the investigation). So, we could not establish the substance in the allegation.”
Speaking on the issues the panel raised in the first letter concerning whistle-blowers and processed recoveries, Malami stated that the whistle-blower policy of the Federal Government was coordinated by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning “and all payments” to whistle-blowers were made by the ministry.
He added, “It is to be noted that whistle-blowing thrives on confidentiality and protection of information. Therefore, disclosing the details of the whistle-blowers at a public hearing breaches the confidentiality provision of which the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation was committed to, arriving from the whistle-blowers, on account of their personal and national security.”
The minister said he would, therefore, avail the lawmakers with only information that would not expose the whistle-blowers.
Malami also stated that concerning details of accounts from which recovered funds were kept as well as withdrawals from the accounts, only the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Central Bank of Nigeria could provide the details.
The minister listed some of the recoveries to include those from a former Military Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha; former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori; and former Governor of Bayelsa State, the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
“For the information of the committee, the Office of the Attorney-General does not maintain custody of an account. All accounts associated with recoveries, generally speaking, are being maintained by the Central Bank,” he stated, adding that his office only approves opening of such accounts but does not run them.