Gbajabiamila says $2.4bn oil probe not witch-hunting
The 2.4 billion dollars revenue probe over the alleged illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil export from 2014-2015 is not a witchhunt, says Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Gbajabiamila made the clarification at plenary on Tuesday in Abuja, during the House of Reps Ad Hoc Committee probe of the alleged sales.
According to him, the exercise is a constitutional responsibility, within the legislative powers of the house as enshrined in sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution.
He said in the light of dwindling revenue accruing to Nigeria from crude oil sales, it was alarming to learn, from a whistleblower, of allegations that over 2.4 billion dollars in possible revenue for the country was lost.
This, according to him, is from the sale of 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s crude oil cargoes in China.
Gbajabiamila said Nigeria’s revenue-to-GDP ratio was below five per cent, which was rated among the five lowest countries in the world.
He said it was reported that about 700 million dollars worth of crude oil was lost to oil theft monthly in Nigeria, adding that between January and July 2022 alone, the country lost 10 billion dollars to the crime.
The speaker said the recommendation of the ad hoc committee would guide the house in making an informed decision in considering the Whistleblower Bill currently before it.
“Let me state emphatically, that whistle-blowers that volunteer information to this house will receive the maximum legislative protection and confidentiality.”
The committee in its ruling, however, summoned the Minister of Finance, Attorney General of the Federation, and Accountant General of the Federation among others, to appear before it.
Chairman of the ad hoc committee, Rep. Mark Gbillah, said the committee was looking at the issues that had to do with allegations of 48 million crude oil barrels sold in China.
He said: “It is unfortunate that the minister of finance and the attorney general of the federation are not here.
“This is a formal request from the committee that the minister and others should appear before this committee because they have received a formal invitation to do so.”
According to Gbillah, there are responses received from the accountant general’s office that show that the minister of finance has been approving payments to whistleblowers in percentages at variance with the policy.
“There have been allegations of the AGF being involved also in receiving funds from outside the country without these funds being remitted into the federation account in line with the provisions of the constitution.
“There are allegations that expenditure of these recoveries have also been done in complete violation of the provisions of the constitution,” Gbillah said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that those who appeared before the committee included the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), Oriental Energy and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
Mr Johnson Agboneonayima, Federal Commissioner (CCB) in Charge of Monitoring, however, said he had in 2015 when he was a member of the eighth assembly, raised a motion on the volume of theft of the nation’s crude oil.
He alleged that some cabal had derailed the wheel of the progress of the country through massive theft of the nation’s crude oil.