The House of Representatives has vowed to unravel the details behind allegations of the alleged illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil, resulting in the loss of a whopping $2.4 billion to the country. A resolution that was reached on Thursday, by members of the House Ad-hoc Committee led by Rep. Mark Gbillah (LP, Benue).
According to Rep. Gbillah, the Committee will also investigate crude oil sales from 2014 till date, as well as Whistleblower Information and Recoveries and expenditure of these recoveries. He explained that the Committee had obtained recordings and photographs of the meetings, documentation to show email trails, discussions and even bank account statements of very highly placed people where the transactions took place.
This is as the Committee also disclosed that some of their informants on the case have alleged threats to their lives, while appealing to Nigerians and the media to be objective on the issue and provide the Committee with the needed support.
For the Committee Chairman, inauguration of the Committee is proof of the willingness and transparency on the part of the House leadership in arriving at the truth behind whatever has transpired in this circumstance.
Gbillah pointed out that the allegation was raised in 2020 by a whistleblower out of the country who alleged that Nigeria’s crude in China was diverted and sold allegedly by certain individuals in government who were in the nation’s oil corporation, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (then). He said some of those who colluded in the alleged illegal transaction were also in the security agencies and are cronies of those in authority at the time.
The lawmaker stressed that the committee would not be deterred from its carrying out its mandate.
“Now the Committee takes very seriously issues that have to do with allegations. We owe Nigerians the benefit of doubt in line with our Constitution. We owe them a duty of care to ensure that we unravel the facts of the matter before we start to make any assertions.
It is obviously going to be important for us to arrive at the conclusion and provide a substantive report that would obviously be in the records and would determine whether or not these issues transpired and in carrying out our functions, one of the things we are going to need to do would be to interview those made those allegations.
Some of them have reached out to the committee alleging threat to their lives. they were intimidated at gunpoint allegedly. So we will have to travel out of the country. to the United States, to Mexico, to China. I believe, considering the amount of borrowing our country is subjected to now, 2.4 billion dollars is money this country very seriously needs.
So it is not something that this house is taking lightly. The leadership of the house is in support of this committee arriving at the truth and the facts this matter. And it shows the seriousness of this house in addressing issues that have to do with the commonwealth of Nigerians. Even though these allegations were made about two years ago, you can see that this responsible House of the Nigerian people has still deemed it necessary to look into this matter even as we go about our electioneering campaigns. So I mentioned the fact that we would have to 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 these issues 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 would condone illegality from any nationale within their shores, so there must have been reasons for his incarceration at the moment, but I am only conveying to Nigerians the allegations that it was not also unconnected with the revelations that he had to provide with regards to this matter. There are other individuals who are in hiding but are reaching out to the committee.
We want to assure all the whistleblowers who have revelations to provide to this honourable committee that their information would be treated in the strictest level of 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 and false 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 saddler with the representation of the Nigerian people, so we have to also do things responsibly. we are also keen as a house on very quickly enacting the whistleblower bill. We know the executive has been working on one, but it appears to be taking them a lot of time to do so. So even within the house, a private member bill is being explored because this is a critical aspect to tackle the corruption in our country.
We commend President Buhari’s administration for bringing forth a whistleblower policy, but very recently, the president himself and the ministers of finance admitted that policy has not been successful in terms of the amount of revelation that they expected and the recoveries expected, and these are obviously tied to the lack of protection to whistleblower in the current policy that is in existence.
We would be appealing to other international partners of Nigeria, the US, Mexican government, and the Chinese government to give this committee the cooperation required because we would also necessarily need also to visit some of these countries to obtain the facts behind the matter. Where these crude oil sales allegedly took place, those who were involved, who claimed they were entitled to some percentage of the amount when these sales took place, they are being very helpful in providing us with the names of some of the individuals who were allegedly in this matter but for the sake of confidentiality and seriousness of this matter, we might not be able to divulge that information until we obtain the facts.
They have told us they have video recordings, photographs of the meetings, documentation to show email trail and discussions and even bank bank account statements of very highly placed people where these transactions tool place. we hope that Nigerians and the media would be very objective in this issue and provide us with the support that is required to carry out this very opmerius assignment.”