The House of Representatives has threatened to serve the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), with summons over their failure to answer queries on alleged illegal sale of crude oil to China and utilisation of funds recovered through whistle-blowers without National Assembly appropriation.
The House’ Ad Hoc 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, which reinvited the ministers at its continued investigative hearing in Abuja on Wednesday, threatened to use its constitutional powers to compel them to appear before it.
Top officials of the Federal Government had failed to appear before the committee at its last sitting on April 11, 2023.
The committee was to grill ministers and other heads of ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government as well as oil companies and banks. However, only the National Intelligence Agency and the Code of Conduct Bureau sent representatives on the government side.
Consequently, the committee reinvited Ahmed, Malami; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, among others.
Chairman of the committee, Mark Gbillah, in his ruling at the end of the day’s sitting, had noted that the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation had indicted several officials and agencies in their memoranda to the panel.
Gbillah noted that the committee is probing into the 48 million barrels of crude oil allegedly sold in China, crude oil exports in general from Nigeria for the period under review and the whistle-blower revelations and recoveries “which the Federal Government has publicly declared they had made recoveries from.”
However, the FG officials failed to show up at the hearing again on Wednesday.
Miffed by the development, Gbillah said, “We have not been getting cooperation from the Ministry of Finance and Attorney-General’s office with regards to salient issues that this committee is investigating. We have seen documentation from the Accountant-General’s office that shows that the Honourable Minister of Finance approved the payment of a significant and substantial amount of money to so-called whistle-blowers where details of monies recovered were not provided.”
The Chairman of the committee added, “We have heard media reports by the Federal Government indicating that millions of dollars were recovered through whistle-blower revelations on behalf of the country. But we as a parliament have not seen where those monies were routed through the constitutional appropriation process before they were expended. The constitution is very clear about the receipt and expenditure of Nigeria’s money. But we have not seen evidence from the Honourable Minister of Finance or from the Attorney-General’s office, and we have not seen any statutory power provided to the Attorney-General to be involved in the expenditure of Nigeria’s commonwealth.
“There was an incident that was revealed by a whistle-blower who made a formal report to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU). About $200m paid into two companies’ accounts – Biz Plus and GSCL – allegedly for consultancy services, which allegedly were approved, they said, by the Attorney-General’s office on the approval of Mr President.”
Gbillah stressed the need for government officials to explain the issues surrounding the funds, especially as they had been accused of authorising the spending.
“We need the Honourable Minister of Finance and the Attorney-General of the Federation to appear before this House to provide clarity on the inflows that have come in from whistle-blowers’ recoveries and to provide clarification about these monies that have recovered. And the CBN as well will be required to provide information that has been provided by these whistle-blowers about such substantial amounts of monies that were paid supposedly and allegedly for consultancy services, when there is no record of any agreement of any sort entered into for those services.
“These are very weighty allegations and as a responsible House, we owe everybody fair hearing and a benefit of the doubt, which is what we have been seeking to accord those who have been mentioned in these allegations. But we find it ‘unfashionable’ that the Honourable Minister of Finance and Attorney-General have not bothered to respond to any of the correspondence from the committee, and this in our opinion shows a lack of regard for the institution, not only of House, but also of the National Assembly as a whole.
“We will make this further appeal to the Honourable Minister of Finance and the Attorney General of the Federation, and all others who have not responded or who have not honoured the committee’s invitations to do so in the national interest. And in the event that they fail to do so, we will be constrained to proceed to summons and other statutory powers that the committee and the National Assembly can exercise in this regard.
“So, we want to make this a formal and final notice to those concerned – the Honourable Minister of Finance and the Attorney General of the Federation – to cause appearance before the committee, to give evidence with regards to the allegations that have been made, with regards to the questions that the committee has requested them to answer and to respond to,” he said.