Probe of alleged $2.4bn oil revenue loss a constitutional responsibility, not witch-hunt – Gbajabiamila

THE Speaker of the the Federal House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, says the probe into an alleged illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil export from  2014-2015 is a constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly.

Gbajabiamila, who made the clarification at a plenary today in Abuja during an ad hoc committee probe of the alleged illegality, dismissed talks of a witch-hunt of anybody using the probe.

According to him, the probe was a constitutional responsibility within the legislative powers of the House as enshrined in sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution.

The probe, The ICIR learnt, was triggered by a squeal from a whistle-blower who alleged a loss by the country of over $2.4 billion in revenue.

The whistle-blower, whose identity was, of course, not revealed for security reasons, informed that the loss was from the sale of 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s crude oil cargoes in China.

Gbajabiamila, who noted the importance of the probe amid dwindling oil revenue resources, said Nigeria’s revenue to gross domestic product ratio was below five per cent, which he pointed out was rated among the five lowest in the world.

He said it was reported that about $700 million 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 to the crime.

The Speaker said the recommendation of the committee would guide the House in making an informed decision in considering the Whistleblower Bill currently before it.

“Let me state emphatically that whistleblowers that volunteer information to this house will receive the maximum legislative protection and confidentiality,” he assured.

The committee has summoned the Minister of Finance, Attorney-General of  the Federation, and Accountant-General of the Federation, among others, to appear before it.

The chairman of the committee, Mark Gbillah, 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 were certain responses received from the Accountant-General’s office which showed that the minister of Finance had been approving payments to whistleblowers in percentages at variance with the policy.

He said, “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.”

    Available reports showed that those who appeared before the committee included officials of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA),  Oriental Energy, and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).

    The Federal Commissioner of the CCB in charge of Monitoring, Johnson Agboneonayima 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.

    Agboneonayima alleged that some “cabal” had derailed the wheel of the progress of the country through massive theft of the nation’s crude oil.

     

    Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.

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