Claim of ‘illegal’ sale of 48m barrels of oil unfounded, Malami tells reps panel

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Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Thursday, appeared before a House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the alleged illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil in 2015. had reported that the committee summoned Malami over the alleged involvement of his office in the sale of the product but he ignored the invitations.

Speaking on Thursday, the AGF said the “purported” sale of the product was “baseless and unfounded.”
The Minister said there was no substance in the whistleblower report that propelled the investigation by the ad hoc 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.

“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 in China said to have been valued at N2.4 billion,” the minister said.

He said at the time, President Muhammadu Buhari “informally” requested him, Mele Kyari, group chief executive officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited; Lawal Daura, the then director-general of the Department of State Service; and late Abba Kyari to “look into” the allegation.

“But unfortunately, for there to be a reasonable ground for suspicion, at least, you require certain basic facts. The basic details of the existence of the product and connecting it to Nigeria were not there at all.

“The vessel perhaps that took it, the particulars and details of the vessel — were not available at our disposal at all.

“So 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 exists in China — and it is in no way connected to Nigeria. And all efforts 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 and then our informal findings do not suggest or provide information that could support (the sale of the crude oil”.

“So we could not establish the substance in the allegation because detail information to confirm the existence and origin of the shipment such as a sample of the oil, vessel involved loading point, location of the crude in China were not provided,” Malami said.

The minister said no further action was taken by his office after it was reported to the President that the “veracity of the allegation” could not be verified.

Malami also denied receiving funds through the whistleblower policy which he didn’t remit to the government.
The committee had said it obtained reports that the minister recovered funds through the policy without remitting them to the federation account.

The lawmakers had also alleged that the minister was involved in the payment of $200 million to two companies for “consultancy service”.

But Malami told the committee that his office does not receive funds on behalf of the government, noting that the ministry of finance that coordinates the policy makes “all payments to whistleblowers”.

“The details of the international account, expenditure, statement of accounts are obtainable from the Central Bank of Nigeria. The office of the attorney-general does not maintain the custody of an account. Associated recoveries are maintained by the CBN and open on the request of the office of the attorney-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. The federal ministry of finance and the office of accountant general are exclusive custodians, managers and operators of the account,” he said.

After his presentation, Ibrahim Isiaka, who presided over the sitting, ruled that the minister provide detailed documents to the committee.

In December 2022, the house of representatives set up an ad hoc committee to investigate a whistleblower’s claims that 48 million barrels of Bonny Light crude were illegally sold in China in 2015.

The committee was also mandated to investigate all crude oil exports and sales in Nigeria from 2014 till date as well as all proceeds recovered through the whistleblower policy of the federal government.

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