The House of Representatives adhoc committee probing a whistleblower’s claim that 48 million barrels of Bonny Light crude worth $2.4 billion were illegally sold in China in 2015, on Thursday grilled the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, telling him that the probe was not a wild goose chase.
Chairman of the committee, Mark Gbillah said this while responding to Malami’s insistence that there was no justifiable ground in the first place for the National Assembly to have embarked on probing the allegation of the 48 million barrels of crude illegally sold in China.
At the resumed hearing on Thursday, the committee asked Malami whether a presidential committee was set up to look into the allegation, but Malami said there was none, saying there were no justifiable grounds and details to embark on any investigation.
He said, “By way of summary reaction, if I may refresh your memories, distinguished Honourable members, my response when similar question was asked in the earlier session was simple; and it is to the effects that there were no reasonable grounds for suspicion justifying the invocation of the oversight functions of the National Assembly as far as this matter is concerned and my basis for such conclusion was the fact that the basic consideration that could have laid the foundation for either investigation or formation of a committee by the executive or oversight by the National Assembly were not there.
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“One, there was an allegation of stolen crude; the fact in respect to that allegation with particular reference to the specifications of the oil, its origin, the vessels if any that has taken it out of the country; which country and associated details in respect of the transactions were not there.
“And indeed if any product, have they been impounded or confiscated, or forfeited in China? Which agency it is in China that has indeed impounded or confiscated the product? Those details were not there. So, the idea of embarking on an investigation or formation of a committee by the executive or oversight functions by the National Assembly does not even arise because even if you are to go to China, where, is it Customs, immigration, or anticorruption agencies that you are approaching for the purpose of information, no such details.
“If you are talking of the products, of which origin? All these details are not there so, if you are blowing a whistle, you should go further by way of giving adequate details, adequate information on what you are blowing; you can’t blow for nothing. You have to blow on the basis of facts, circumstances, date and time. All those information are not there.
“Arriving from that conclusion, there is no foundation or reasonable ground for the formation of a committee because necessary details that could now provoke the consideration of the committee are not there.”
But Gbillah faulted the claims made by Malami, insisting there were justifiable grounds for the investigation, saying the committee has documents and communication that relate to the matter under probe.
“Contrary to assertion sir, what you have said is incorrect because before this Honourable House embarked upon this investigation, we had documents. That’s why we carry out investigation of allegations. We are not confirming there is an infraction done. That is why the House took its time before commencing this investigation.
“Contrary to what you have said, the House and the committee is in possession of documents indicating storage of certain products; documents showing approval of lifting of certain quantity of crude outside the country documents on storage of certain crude in some locations in China.
“There are documents showing email exchanges between some top members of government which were corroborated with regards to these transactions including the DSS and I’m surprised your office is not aware of this. The DSS made exchange of correspondences with these individuals and we are in possession of those documents sir.
“It’s confidential documents that have been made available to the committee, so contrary to your assertion sir, I say we take exception to your response, we do not embark on a wild goose chase; we are also responsible elected members of the National Assembly who also base our actions on actionable intels like they say in the intelligence community and this is the information that we received to form the basis.
“We are also privy to a communication by the president regarding this particular issue which we will not say openly but take it up with you in private because we also understand that certain things are classified and confidential”, he said.
Gbillah assured Malami the committee will avail him of relevant documents at its disposal in the course of the investigation.
Responding, Malami said he was ready to cooperate with the committee if given the relevant documents regarding the probe, saying, he has helped the country in the recovery of over $1 billion for the country and would not in any way frustrate any efforts aimed at recovering the country’s revenues stashed anywhere.
Meanwhile, the committee has asked Malami to furnish it with documents regarding all the recoveries his office has made for the country within period under investigation.
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