Facing a huge cash crisis, President Muhammadu Buhari has resorted to unusual strategies for recovering some of the funds stolen from Nigeria’s treasury through a series of shady deals between former Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke and a group of indigenous oil companies and oil marketers she and former President Goodluck Jonathan favored.
Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, brought the part of the illicit deals to public attention when he alerted Nigerians that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to deposit $20 billion of oil revenues with the CBN. In addition, Mrs. Alison-Madueke had inked some deals, with the blessing of former President Jonathan, involving oil swaps and the transfer of certain oil wells reclaimed from multinational oil companies to shady Nigerian operators, including Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko.
An investigation by SaharaReporters discovered that President Buhari’s administration has begun the difficult and complex process of retrieving some of the missing petro-billions. One approach so far adopted by the new president is aimed at addressing the fuel scarcity that has harmed the Nigerian economy and threatens to paralyze the country’s economic activities, according to highly placed officials in the government.
But one exception involves Mr. Omokore whose Atlantic Atlantic Energy Oil Company was involved in the controversial concession of oil wells. A source at the Presidency told SaharaReporters that Mr. Omokore had volunteered to return $500 million to the Federal Government. However, the source added that President Buhari nixed the deal based on information that Mr. Omokore, believed to be a front for Mr. Jonathan and Mrs. Alison-Madueke, is in possession of $4.5 billion of funds that should have been deposited in the federation account.
The sources told SaharaReporters that the government’s immediate strategy involved targeting oil marketers and companies “caught red-handed in stealing huge sums of oil subsidies and oil revenues.” The government has pressured these companies and their owners to agree to repay the stolen monies traced to them by immediately importing more fuel into Nigeria.
The sources said the Buhari government has recorded significant early success in getting some oil marketers and their companies to accept the fuel-for-funds deals. “A number of them have agreed to import massive levels of fuel in lieu of the funds they received in shady transactions during the Jonathan administration,” one Presidency source claimed.
Another source revealed that the administration had started out by putting pressure on former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke. She was reportedly quick to deny responsibility for the illicit deals with the oil marketers. Instead, she squealed on her subordinates in the NNPC, accusing them of structuring and doctoring the deals that robbed Nigeria of billions of dollars.
“The [Buhari] government got her to write a formal account of her allegations against some NNPC officials and oil companies. What she put down gave a picture of how some of the funds went missing. The document was then forwarded to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the form of a petition,” one source said.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s “petition” reportedly named all the persons involved in the massive fraud in the oil sector, including some past and serving officials of the NNPC. Our sources said those she implicated in the NNPC include the current General Managing Director (GMD), Haruna Momoh, a former GMD, Austen Oniwon, Reginald Stanley and Sam Okeke, a former Group General Manager, New Business Division of the NNPC.
An EFCC source told SaharaReporters that a crack team of investigators was currently working on the former minister’s petition. He said the document had revealed new facts previously unknown by EFCC agents and Nigeria’s intelligence officials at Department of State Services (DSS). Among the scams disclosed by the former minister is information that at least four companies involved in an oil swap deal had not accounted for huge sums that should have been remitted to the account of the Nigerian government.
Among the companies implicated in her “petition,” Transfigura was reportedly unable to account for $80 million, Televeras $111million, while Aiteo apparently gulped down $150 million. Other oil firms named in the defrauding of the Nigerian people are Ontario, which failed to account for $135 million, and Sahara Energy, accused of skipping the payment of $120 million to the government.
Our EFCC source revealed that two companies, Transfigura and Sahara Energy, had made some gesture towards paying back some missing funds. However, a source at the Presidency told our correspondent that “so far the reconciliation has involved just paperwork and has not scratched the heart of the scam.” Investigators described Aiteo and Ontario as particularly problematic because they have completely cooked their records. An investigator also disclosed that the two companies are most directly linked to Mrs. Alison-Madueke and former President Jonathan. Both Ms. Alison-Madueke and Mr. Jonathan are currently in the UK, with the former Petroleum Minister reportedly undergoing a weeklong cancer therapy.
Some of the companies have agreed in principle to return the funds by bartering imported fuel for the funds they acquired illegally.
Our sources disclosed that other downstream companies caught in the storm of missing and stolen funds include Forte Oil, owned by businessman Femi Otedola, Folawiyo Energy, and, Oando, owned by Wale Tinubu and Honeywell Oil Company owned by Oba Otudeko.
Officials of the Buhari administration declined to give official confirmation of the stolen assets recovery process relating to other officials of the Jonathan Presidency.