Lawmakers Threaten To Arrest AGF, Finance Minister for Shunning $2.4bn Crude Oil Sales Probe

If the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, once again fail to appear before its ongoing investigation into the alleged illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil worth more than $2.4 billion to foreign destinations, the House of Representatives may issue warrants of arrest.

At its resumed hearing yesterday, the House Ad-hoc Committee looking into claims of a loss of over $2.4 billion from the allegedly unlawful sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil in 2015, including crude oil export, issued the warning.

On April 11, the MPs had called both to testify before the legislature and provide explanation on how the whistleblower program works.

The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Mark Gbillah, while reacting to their absence at the resumed hearing, said if the ministers failed to honour its invitation again, the panel would be forced to invoke the instrument of summons and all other necessary powers the National Assembly could exercise which includes warrant of arrest.

“We will make this further appeal to the 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.

“In the event that they fail to do so, we will be constrained to invoke the instrument of summons and all other necessary powers the National Assembly can exercise in this regard.

“We want to make this formal and final notice to those concerned – the Minister of Finance and the Attorney General of the Federation – to cause appearance before the committee to give evidence with regard to the allegations that have been laid with regard to the questions the committee has requested for them to answer and to respond to,” Gbillah said.

The committee also invited Malami to appear before it to respond to the allegations that he approved the payment of the sum of $200 million to two private firms as consultancy services fees on whistleblowers’ recoveries.

The panel equally demanded the appearance of the finance minister, Ahmed, to explain her role in the said approvals and payment without providing details of actual recoveries from whistle blowers.

The committee’s chairman, Gbillah, expressed displeasure over the uncooperative attitude of the ministers to the ongoing investigation despite several letters of invitation.

“We have not been getting any form of cooperation from the Ministry of Finance and Attorney General’s office regarding this investigation despite series of correspondents sent to them on this matters that we are investigating.

“We have seen documentations from the Accountant General’s office, where the Minister Finance approved the payment of substantial significant amount of money to so-called whistle blowers where details of monies recovered were not provided.

“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,” he said.

The committee chairman further said the panel was interested in knowing where the Attorney General derives his powers to approve payment of funds meant for the federation without recourse to the legislature through formal request by the executive.

He said: “We have looked at the functions of the Attorney General’s office and we’ve not seen any statutory powers provided for the Attorney General by the constitution to determine how Nigeria’s money should be spent.

“There was an incident about a whistle blower who made a formal report to Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) about $200 million 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.

“The CBN is required to provide information that has been provided by these whistle blowers about substantial amounts of monies that were paid supposedly and allegedly for consultancy services when there’s no record of any agreement entered into by those companies regarding any services.

“These are very weighty allegations and as a responsible House, we owe everybody fair hearing and a benefit of doubt, and this is what we’ve been seeking to accord those who have been mentioned in these allegations,” he added.