Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has said that oil money in the region of $1 trillion is yet to be recovered by the federal government into the federation account.
He said he blew the whistle on it but that it appeared government does not have the will to recover the money from most multinational companies who took the nation’s oil.
He made the disclosure in a speech delivered at the 2nd year submit in the whistleblower policy of the Federal Government held at Abuja.
Falana challenged the Federal Ministry of Finance to proceed to recover the huge funds.
“I can assure the federal government that I do not intend to demand payment of any percentage from the fund to be recovered based on the whistle that I have blown which has been ignored”, he said.
The activist lawyer recalled that two years ago, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari adopted the Whistleblower policy as a component of the fight against corruption sequel to the deliberate refusal of the national assembly to pass the Whistleblower Bill sponsored by some legislators in 2007.
He noted that like the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and Bank Verification No (BVN) the Whistleblower policy is said to have assisted the federal government to recover huge public fund which had been cornered by a few corrupt individuals and corporate bodies.
Falana remarked that apart from the success recorded so far in the implementation of the TSA, BVN and whistle blower policies, the trillions of Naira which have been saved or recovered by the federal government have not been deployed to arrest the increasing wave of poverty in the land.
He said it was pertinent to point out, on the second anniversary of the whistle blowing policy, that what has been recovered so far is a tip of the iceberg as the Buhari administration has not acted on the information at its disposal in respect of the billions of dollars being withheld from the federation account.
He gave a list of the billions of dollars that are still being withheld from the federation account.
He recalled that on March 8, 2016, he requested the Minister of Finance to embark on urgent and decisive measures to recover not less than $200 billion.
He said the only thing he got from the Finance Minister was a polite response that his request was receiving attention.
He said the detailed information contained in his letter has not been processed either by the federal ministry of finance or federal ministry of justice.
He however noted that his letter generated reactions from some quarters because the letter was widely published in the media, with particular reference to the allegation that the Central Bank of Nigeria gave out a bail out of $7 billion to 14 commercial banks in 2006.
He said the then Governor of CBN, Professor Charles Soludo said it was not a bail out but a deposit.
“Since the fund was illegally removed from the nation’s foreign reserves without appropriation by the national assembly and placed as a deposit in the banks it ought to be recovered together with the accrued interests”, he stated.
Falana also referred to information he obtained from the National Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) that the NNPC had withheld $20 billion from the federation account adding that from the 2015 audit exercise conducted by NEITI, the figure has increased to $22 billion and N376 billion.
He also recalled that in a petition sent to the Presidential Panel on Recovery of Public Property last year, he accused Exxon Mobil of paying $600 million out of the $2.5 billion fixed by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation for the renewal of three oil blocks in 2009.
Even though the oil company claimed to have paid the outstanding balance of $1.9 billion, he insisted that there is no evidence of such payment.
He hoped that the Presidential Panel will pursue the matter to a logical conclusion
The activist lawyer described as ‘most interesting’ the reaction of the Minister of State, Ministry of Petroleeum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu to a letter he wrote to him.
He said: “the minister concurred with me that the nation had lost not less than $60 billion due to the failure of some public officers to implement the provisions of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act”.
He said Section 16 of the Act provides that the royalties paid by oil companies shall be adjusted upwards whenever the price of oil rose beyond $20 per barrel.
He explained that this was why the Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers State governments dragged the federal government to the Supreme Court to justify why it has refused to implement the law in the last 18 years.
He noted that in a judgment delivered by the apex court on October 18, 2018, the federal government was ordered to take urgent steps to recover all revenues lost to oil and gas exploring and exploiting companies due to wrong profit sharing formula termed as the Production Sharing Contracts since 2003.
He expressed hoped that the federal government will proceed to recover the sum of money estimated to be in the region of $1 trillion.
He however acknowledged that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) commencing investigation into the allegation of crude oil stolen from the country by well-known international oil and shipping companies.
“For instance, it has been confirmed that 60.2 million barrels of crude oil stolen from Nigeria between 2011 and 2014 were discharged at Philadephia port in the United States.
“If the investigation can be painstakingly conducted, it is estimated that not less than $300 billion could be realized as the costs and penalties for the oil stolen from Nigeria and discharged in several ports in the United States, China, India, United Kingdom, France etc.
“Having regards to the fact that the public and private organisations that have been fingered in my letter are very powerful and vested the federal government cannot muster the political will to recover the fund that has been withheld from the federation account. “Therefore, the Nigerian people who stand to benefit from the judicious deployment of recovered loot should be mobilised by the progressive extraction of civil society organisations to take over the fight against corruption”, he said.