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Reps grill AGF Malami over $2.4bn illegal oil sale, demand records of $1bn recoveries

The House of Representatives, on Thursday, grilled the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), for the second time over the alleged illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil in China valued at over $2.4bn.

 

Malami, in company of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice/Solicitor-General of the Federation, Beatrice Jedy-Agba, appeared before the House’ Ad Hoc Committee to Investigate Alleged Loss of Over $2.4 Billion in Revenue from 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.

 

Despite the documents presented to the committee based on an earlier request by the panel, the lawmakers asked for more documents.

 

While Malami restated his earlier position about the allegation and the probe, he also asked the lawmakers to avail him of documents and facts at their disposal to assist him in aiding the investigation.

 

Chairman of the committee, Mark Gbillah, earlier noted that the lawmakers were in possession of communication from the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, “regarding this particular issue, which we will not say openly but will take up with you in private because we also understand certain things are classified and confidential.”

 

Gbillah added that, “We are not just embarking on something that is a wild goose chase. I want to put that on the record. In your response to the committee now, you made it clear that you have assisted the country commendably to recover over $1bn. But we cannot see $1bn in this submission, in terms of those recoveries as well, which is why we asked for the details of the whistle-blowers and the payments to them. We know that these payments were made in line with the whistle-blower policy.”

 

The Solicitor-General noted that a list of processed whistles had been listed in the document presented to the committee, while the total recoveries should be provided by the finance ministry, accountant-general and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

 

“What we sent to you was what we have in our records and I think in the documentation we provided, we also said we do not receive funds in the ministry,” Jedy-Agba stated.

 

In his response to a question on the 5 per cent commission entitled to a whistle-blower after a successful recovery, Malami noted that the percentage is dependent on the volume or size of the asset recovered.

 

“We have had cause to negotiate to as low as 2 per cent, depending on the volume of the assent meant for recovery,” he stated.

 

It was the second time that Malami and Jedy-Agba would appear since the probe began.

 

The minister, when he first appeared before the committee on April 27, 2023, had told the lawmakers that the allegation that 48 million barrels of crude oil valued at over $2.4bn was illegally sold to China is false.

 

Malami stated that, “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 ground pointing to a material suspicion that is cogent enough to invoke the constitutional oversight of the committee.

 

“Why do I say so? 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 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 a reasonable ground for suspicion, at least you require certain basic facts. If you are talking about 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 samples and specifications. 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,” he said.

 

The minister had 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.

 

(The Punch)

 

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