Femi Falana, human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has not mustered the political will to act on whistle-blowing pertaining to billions of dollars withheld from the federation.
He made this known in a statement made available to SaharaReporters on Monday, in which he also noted that the loot recovered so far is just a tip of the iceberg.
Falana recalled how he blew the whistle on illegal financial dealings relating to oil proceeds in a letter addressed to the Minister of Finance in March 2016.
Speaking on the confirmation that 60.2 millions barrels of crude oil stolen from Nigeria between 2011 and 2014 were discharged at a port in the United States, he said: "If the investigation can be painstakingly conducted, it is estimated that not less than $300 billion would be realised as penalties from the oil stolen and discharged in several ports in the United States, China, India, United Kingdom, France etc."
He challenged the Federal Ministry of Finance to "proceed to recover the huge funds highlighted in his letter", while assuring Nigeria's Federal Government that "I do not intend to demand any percentage from the money recovered based on the whistle that has been blown in my letter".
The statement read: "Two years ago, the Buhari administration adopted the whistle blowing policy as a component of the fight against corruption. The introduction was sequel to the deliberate refusal of the National Assembly to pass the Whistle Blowing Bill sponsored by some legislators in 2007.
"Like the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and Bank Verification No (BVN), the Whistle Blowing policy is said to have assisted the federal government to recover huge public funds which had been cornered by a few unpatriotic elements. But apart from beating its chest for the success recorded in the implementation of the TSA, BVN and WB policies, the trillions of Naira which have saved or recovered by the federal government have not been deployed to arrest the increasing wave of poverty in the land. However, in marking the second anniversary of the Whistle Blowing policy, it is pertinent to point out that what has been recovered so far is a tip of the iceberg as the Buhari administration has not mustered the political will to act on the blowing of whistle pertaining to billions of dollars withheld from the federation.
"In March 2016, I requested the Minister of Finance to embark on urgent and decisive measures to recover not less than $200 billion. Apart from assuring me, rather politely, that my request was receiving attention, the detailed information contained in my letter has not been processed either by either the federal ministry of finance or federal ministry of justice. Since my letter was widely published by the media, it has generated reactions from some quarters.
"However, with respect to the allegation that the Central Bank of Nigeria gave out a bailout of $7 billion to 14 commercial banks [in] 2006, Professor Charles Soludo said it was not a bailout but a deposit. Since the fund was illegally removed from the nation's foreign reserves with appropriation by the national assembly and placed as a deposit in the banks, it ought to be recovered together with accrued interests. Based on information which I had obtained from the NEITI, I did say that the NNPC had withheld the sum of $20 billion from the federation account. From the 2015 audit exercise conducted by NEITI, the figure has increased to $22 billion and N376 billion.
"Based on a [follow-up] petition to the Presidential Panel on Recovery of Public Property, Exxon Mobil claimed to have paid the outstanding balance of $1.9bn in respect of the remewal of three oil blocks. Since there is no evidence of payment, it is hoped that the Presidential Panel will pursue the matter to a logical conclusion.
"The most interesting reaction to my letter came from Dr. Ibe Kachukwu, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Petreum Resources. He blamed some unnamed public officers for causing the nation to lose the sum of $60 billion due to their failure to implement the provisions of the Onshore Production Contract Act. Since the indicted officials were not called to order, the authorities of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers State governments decided to drag the federal government to the Supreme Court to justify why it has refused to implement the law.
"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 exploiring and exploiting companies due to wrong profit sharing formula termed as the Production Sharing Contracts since 2003. It is hoped that the federal government will proceed to recover the sum of money estimated to be in the region of $1 trillion.
"I must not fail to acknowledge that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has commenced investigation into the allegations of crude oil stolen from the country by well-known international oil and shipping companies. For instance, it has been confirmed that 60.2 millions barrels of crude oil stolen from Nigeria between 2011 and 2014 were discharged at a port in the United States. If the investigation can be painstakingly conducted, it is estimated that not less than $300 billion would be realised as penalties from the oil stolen and discharged in several ports in the United States, China, India, United Kingdom, France, etc.
"In view of the foregoing, we challenge the Federal Ministry of Finance to proceed to recover the huge funds highlighted in my letter. I can assure the federal government that I do not intend to demand any percentage from the money recovered based on the whistle that has been blown in my letter."