…says he blew the whistle but was ignored
Human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has disclosed that oil money worth $1 trillion is yet to be recovered by the federal government into the federation account.
He said he blew the whistle, but the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration has not mustered the political will to act on, or recover the money from most multinational companies who took the nation’s oil.Falana who made the disclosure at the 2nd annual National Stakeholders Summit on whistleblower policy, in Abuja, challenged the Federal Ministry of Finance to proceed to recover the huge funds.
He said: “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 recalled that two years ago, the administration of President 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.
Falana 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.
He 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.
The human rights activist 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, recalling 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 further 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.
According to Falana, the then Governor of CBN, Professor Charles Soludo said it was not a bail out but a deposit.
He said: “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.”
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.”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 added