On April 27, 2023, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, appeared before an ad hoc House of Representatives committee saddled with the duty to investigate the alleged loss of over $2.4 billion in unremitted oil revenue for the first time.
Mark Gilla, the chairman of the committee, had announced the invitation of the AGF, Abubakar Malami, a week before. The scope of the ongoing investigation is expected to cover the reported illegal sales of 48 million barrels of Nigerian crude oil from 2014 to date.
The Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria were also invited by the Mark Gbilla-led House committee. The minister and the central bank governor are involved in the investigation for their links to the matter under investigation. Zainab approved payments to whistleblowers that were inconsistent with the policy. Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, has been invited by the ad hoc committee to be the signatory to the accounts for the recoveries.
Malami, while holding a brief during the first sitting of the committee, said to the house members that disclosure of the details of the whistleblowers who were paid violates confidentiality and is against the policy of the initiative.
While being drilled on how these remittances were made, the AGF reused himself from the matter by pointing the House ad hoc committee in the direction of the office of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He describes him as the custodian of the accounts for the recovery of stolen oil funds.
On Thursday, April 25, 2023, for the second time, Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation, appeared before the Mark Gbilla-led House committee over the alleged illegal sales of 48 million barrels of crude oil, valued at over $2.4 billion. The AGF appeared with his Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice/Solicitor-General of the Federation, Beatrice Jedy-Agba, to continue in their defense of their involvement in the over $2.4 billion in revenue from crude oil exports in 2015, spanning back to 2014. Malami has been requested to provide more documents, despite the documents presented per reference to the request of the House committee in the first sitting.
The chairman of the committee, Mark Gbilla, made it known for the record that they are not on a wild goose chase. “We are not just embarking on some wild goose chase. I want to put that on record.” The Honorable Mark Gbilla, the lead panelist who is also representing Gwer East and Gwer West, faulted the AGF for his claim in the last sitting that there was no formal committee set up by the President to investigate the allegation. Gbilla noted the official communication between the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the National Security Adviser, Major General Baba Gana Monguno (Retd). The house committee chairman expressed dismay at the ignorance of all the AGF on these facts. “I’m quite surprised that your esteemed office did not have all these details.” It might not be within your purview of knowledge, but we are surprised that it is so.” The AGF insisted that he has never been on any formal presidential committee. He further said, “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’m talking about documents made available by a whistleblower or a document made available by the system.”
Abubakar Malami complained about the absence of documents to work with in his consideration of the matter since he has never been a part of any official committee set up by the president for the purpose of the alleged matter.
Further in his brief, the Attorney-General articulated that Malami stated that “in the absence of facts, 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 ground and basis for such consideration. And I stand my ground.”
The AGF uttered that since the document with the committee counters the documents within his disposal, he should be allowed to receive a forwarded copy of the documents with the House ad-hoc committee and “perhaps revert back with a comprehensive position in line with the analysis of the document. Gbilla frowned at the attempt by the AGF to dictate the modality of the proof. The Gwer Representative stated that only the panel has the authority to determine the framework of the probe.
The committee, however, agreed amongst themselves to forward relevant documents to the minister by Tuesday.
The AGF quickly reminded the panel that the committee would be dealing with him as a private citizen by then as the tenure of his principal, President Muhammodu Buhari, would expire on Monday.
Jedy-Agba, in her own defense, defended the questions asked by the lawmakers as contained in the letter sent to the ministry by the House committee. She said the ministry does not possess the powers to investigate. But confirmed that the Ministry of Justice indeed received a petition from a non-governmental organization through the Office of Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF). She added that the ministry only acted on the report of the investigation carried out by the office of the Inspector General of Police. “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 action on the basis of the petition itself.”
Jedy-Agba directed the house members to the list of processed whistleblowers in the documents presented to the committee, while the committee approached the Finance Ministry, the Accountant-General, and the EFCC for the provision of the total recoveries.
Malami narrated to the House committee how President Muhammadu Buhari had informally requested that he, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mele Kyari, the MD Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, the former Director-General Department of State Service, Lawal Daura, and the late Abba Kyari, the then Chief of Staff to the president, look into a case of crude oil theft of $2.4 billion that got traction on social media and for us to revert back with advice.
Malami went against the substance of the allegation. He did not only recuse himself from the allegations; he completely disparaged them. He described it as a social media-unfounded case lacking in merit. Malami labeled the missing $2.4 billion crude oil allegation an unreasonable suspicion.
Report O. Oluwafemi