Reps Probe Malami Again Over $2.4bn Illegal Oil Sale

The National Assembly has again begun a probe into the reported $2.4billion illegal oil sale alleged to have been sold by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami.

Malami who appeared before the House of Representatives again on Thursday, was grilled for the second time over the alleged illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil in China valued at over $2.4billion appeared in company of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice/Solicitor-General of the Federation, Beatrice Jedy-Agba, before the House adhoc 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.

There was a tough session of grilling of the Minister and the Solicitor-General as the lawmakers aside the documents presented to the Committee as earlier requested, demanded for more documents.

On his part, Malami maintained his earlier position on the allegation and the probe, while taking back at 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.”

The Chairman, faulted an earlier claim by Malami at the last appearance that there was no formal committee set up by the President to investigate the matter, mentioning that Malami may be ignorant of same.

“We are not just embarking on something that is a wild goose chase. I want to put that on the record,” he said.

“An actual committee was set up, maybe you (the minister) are privy to it or not,” he added.

According to him, a former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources also made a formal communication to the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd.), “over this issue and we are in possession of that document.

“So, I am quite surprised that your esteemed office did not have all this information. It might not be within your purview of knowledge, but we are surprised that it is not,” he said.

Malami in response maintained that he was not part of any formal presidential committee.

“Secondly, aside from not being a member of any such committee, if any had existed, no document was made available to me as a person or to my office relating to this (petroleum) product. I am talking about a document made available by a whistle-blower or a document made available by the system. And to further confirm the problem, even when I was invited by this committee to appear, not a single document was made available to me for consideration,” Malami said.

Malami who noted the Committee in its correspondence to his Ministry asked about 30 questions which he said he had responded to, stated that, “So, in the absence of facts; in the absence of documents being presented for my consideration by the National Assembly; in the absence of documents being presented to me by the Executive for consideration; in the absence of my participation in any committee relating to the subject matter of investigation, it is not out of place for me to conclude that there is no justifiable, reasonable ground and basis for such consideration. And I stand my ground.”

The AGF argued that since the lawmakers have documents at their disposal that are establishing otherwise, they should forward same to his office for consideration and then perhaps he would revert to them “with a comprehensive position in line with the analysis of the documents.”

Malami urged the Committee and the Ministry to collectively review the documents and reach a conclusion on them.

In response, the Committee Chairman, disagreed with the Minister’s position, stating that only the panel has the discretion to determine how it will conduct the probe.

The Committee, however, resolved to forward relevant documents to Malami by Tuesday.

The AGF also confirmed to the Committee that his office engaged consultants not necessarily on account of whistle-blowing but on account of recovery, “perhaps, identifying public assets either in the financial system or offshore,” which are profiled and thereafter commence recovery process.

While answering questions from the lawmakers, relating to issues raised by the Committee in its letter to the Ministry, the Solicitor-General, Jedy-Agba stated that the Ministry does not have investigative powers.

She, however, confirmed that the Ministry received a petition from a non-governmental organisation through the OAGF.

“What we simply did was to send the petition and attachments to the office of the Inspector-General of Police. Perhaps, if the Inspector-General should have checked if they were registered before embarking on an investigation, that question may be directed at them.

“We only acted on the basis of the report of the investigation by the office of the Inspector-General. It was on the basis of the report that we filed charges. We did not take any action on the basis of the petition itself,” she said.

Not satisfied, the Committee Chairman further noted that some of the information sought by the Committee was lagging in the presentation made by the Ministry.

“In your response to the Committee now, you made it clear that you have assisted the Country commendably to recover over $1billion. But we cannot see $1billion 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,” he said.

The Solicitor-General responded that a list of processed whistles had been listed in the document presented to the Committee.

He, however, directed the Committee to the Ministry of Finance, the Accountant-General and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for details on the total recoveries.

“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 Miinistry,” Jedy-Agba stated.

In his response to a question on the five per cent commission entitled to a whistle-blower after a successful recovery, Malami stated that the percentage depends on the volume of the asset recovered in concern as well as based on negotiations.

“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.

Recall when the AGF and the Solicitor-General had firstly appeared before the House of Representatives Committee, on April 27, 2023, they had debunk the allegation that 48 million barrels of crude oil valued at over $2.4billion was illegally sold to China, telling the lawmakers it is “baseless and unfounded.”

Malami who argued that no Chinese authorities confirmed receipt and custody of the product in China, had added that there were no particulars for proof of the vessels that transported the fuel to China.

“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.

by sam (Shiping position)

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