According to Udora Orizu, as they begin their inquiry into a whistleblower’s allegations of the unlawful sale of 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s Bonny Light petroleum to China in 2015, members of the House of Representatives are keeping key stakeholders on their toes.
Members of the House of Representatives are presently looking into claims made by a whistleblower that 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s Bonny Light petroleum were sold illegally to China in 2015, as well as the cargo’s insurance status.
The lawmakers are also investigating all crude oil exports and sales by Nigeria from 2014 to date, with regards to quantity, insurance, revenue generated, remittances into the Federation Account or other accounts as well as utilisation of the revenue for the period under review.
Over the years, the increasingly audacious and humongous theft of crude oil poses a multiplicity of threats to oil companies and all tiers of governments, the livelihoods of citizens and communities, and, mostly importantly, to national security. This theft often comes with threats to the lives of officials trying to curb the menace or the whistleblowers.
Last year, the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Mr. Mele Kyari, said he had received several death threats from people who are not happy with efforts being made by the federal government to ensure increased transparency, accountability as well as an end to crude oil theft which has seen the country recording severe revenue losses.
In July 2020, an oil trading firm, Samano Sa De CV, wrote a letter to the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari, demanding five percent reward for exposing the diversion and theft of 48 million barrels of crude oil.
In a letter signed by a lawyer, Gboyega Oyewole, on behalf of the whistleblower titled, ‘Formal Request for the Payment of five per cent Whistleblower Compensation For Information Furnished In Respect of Crude Oil Stolen from the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, it was stated that in October 2015, the stolen crude was moved to China without the knowledge of President Muhammadu Buhari and sold illegally by some government officials with the proceeds not remitted to the government’s coffers.
Reacting to the allegation, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in a statement issued by its solicitor, Afe Babalola and Co, stated that the entire story was a hoax designed to blackmail, defraud and embarrass the system operators and the nation at large.
The statement reads:-
“The management of the corporation states emphatically that these publications are replete with falsehoods, offensive, gold-digging and a calculated attempt by the said SAMANO SA DE CV (SAMANO) working in concert with its local and international agents to intimidate, blackmail and extort money from the Federal Government of Nigeria and NNPC. Given the attention which these publications have generated, NNPC deems it necessary to make the following clarifications.
“For context, as of 2015, the daily production of crude oil in Nigeria was below 1.6 million barrels. Therefore, 48 million barrels of crude oil would have been the total production capacity of the country for a whole month. It was and remains simply impossible for one-month crude oil production for the entire country to disappear without any record or trace from the shores of the country. Consequently, the Federal Government terminated all communications with SAMANO as it became apparent that its claim was a hoax.
“When SAMANO realised that the Federal Government was no longer interested in the non-existent stolen crude, it resorted to blackmail and intimidation of key officials of the government. SAMANO threatened that it would publicise the fact that the non-existent crude had been recovered, sold and proceeds looted by senior government officials and other personalities when it knew this was absolute falsehood.
“SAMANO made several demands including that it be paid the sum of $125,000,000 by the government officials to prevent it from disclosing this false information to the public. This demand soon metamorphosed into harassment as SAMANO embarked on a mischievous exercise to embarrass the Federal Government of Nigeria on international media platforms and before several international institutions like the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), all in a calculated bid to blackmail the Federal Government of Nigeria and NNPC into paying it a significant amount of money as compensation.
“As a result of the constant harassment, NNPC was constrained to make a formal report to the Department of State Security (DSS) and Nigeria Police while other victims wrote petitions in respect of the same subject to the Attorney-General of the Federation. After a thorough investigation by the police and DSS and confessions by agents of SAMANO, it was discovered that the allegations of conspiracy, forgery, obtaining money by false pretence, blackmail and extortion were well-founded and that some of the fraudulent activities of one Mr Ramirez and Mr Jose Salazar Tinajero (both agents of SAMANO) constituted a threat to the national security of Nigeria.”