The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the alleged loss of over $2.4bn revenue to illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil export in 2015, on Thursday, held its inaugural meeting.
The committee, which has been mandated to probe into oil exports from Nigeria since 2014, assured whistle-blowers of confidentiality as they provide information leading to recovery of lost revenue.
The House had on December 20 resolved to constitute an ad hoc committee to investigate a whistle-blower’s allegation of illegal sale of 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s Bonny Light crude in China in 2015 and the insurance status of the cargo.
The committee was asked to investigate all crude oil exports and sales by Nigeria from 2014 to date, with regards to quantity, insurance, revenue generated, remittances into the Federation Account or other accounts as well as utilisation of the revenue for the period under review.
In addition, the panel will investigate all proceeds recovered through the Whistle-Blowers Policy of the regime led by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the level of compliance by the policy.
The committee is to report back within four weeks for further legislative action.
The Chairman of the committee, Mark Gbillah, who addressed journalists in Abuja on Thursday, recalled that a whistle-blower raised the alarm in 2020 that Nigeria’s crude in China was diverted and sold by some individuals the government “who were in the nation’s oil corporation, who were in the security agencies and who were also cronies of those in authority at a time.”
Gbillah stated that the committee was committed to unravelling the facts of the matter. He disclosed that the panel would interrogate the whistle-blowers, some of whom he claimed had “reached out to the committee alleging threat to their lives; that they were intimidated at gunpoint, allegedly.”
He stated, “So, we would have to travel out of the country to the United States of America, to Mexico, to China. Considering the amount of borrowings our country is subjected to now, $2.4bn is (an amount of) money this country needs very seriously. So, it is not something this House is taking lightly. The leadership of the House is in support of this committee arriving at the truth and the facts behind this matter; and it shows the seriousness of this House in addressing issues that have to do with the commonwealth of Nigeria. Even though these allegations were made about two years ago, you can see that this responsible House of the Nigerian people has deemed it necessary to look into this matter, even as we go about our electioneering campaign.
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“So, I mentioned that we will have to go (out of the country) because of the fears expressed by these individuals. It is important to also point out that an American citizen who was also allegedly knowledgeable about this issue is currently in the Ikoyi Prison over other infractions he allegedly committed in Nigeria. But there are insinuations that it is not outside this particular matter that informed those issues being brought against him.
“Of course, nobody and no country will condone any illegal activities of any nationals within its shores. So, there must have been reasons for his incarceration. But I’m only conveying to Nigerians the allegations that he was not also unconnected with the revelations that he has to provide with regards to this matter.”
The chairman also noted that the committee would welcome evidence and testimonies in camera.
“There were individuals who were in the hiding but are reaching out to the committee. We want to assure all the whistle-blowers who have revelations to provide to this honourable committee that their information will be treated with the strictest confidence as it is done all over the world in other climes. We can receive evidence behind closed doors before we make them public because we too are concerned about spurious allegations. So, we too want to determine and see the facts behind any such allegations before we bring them to public knowledge because we are a public body saddled with the representation of Nigerian people so we have to also do things responsibly.”
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