Reps Summon Malami, Finance Minister Over ‘Fraud’ In Whistleblower Programme

Ndayagi Sulaiman

A house of representatives committee has summoned Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation; and Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, over the implementation of the whistleblower policy of the federal government.

The committee also summoned Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation, and “all other stakeholders” involved in the implementation of the policy.

The government officials are to appear before the committee and “provide clarification” on their operation of the whistleblower policy.

The policy, launched in December 2016, encourages Nigerians to disclose information on fraud, bribery, looted government funds, financial misconduct, and any other form of corruption to the ministry of finance.

Mark Gbillah, chairman of the committee investigating the alleged loss of $2.4 billion in revenue from the illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil in 2015, issued the summon during a public hearing on Tuesday.

Ghillah said the committee received reports that Malami received funds outside the country through the whistleblower policy but did not remit it to the federation account.

The committee chairman also said the minister of finance approved payments to whistleblowers which were not in accordance with what the policy stipulates.

 “We are looking at the issue of crude oil export in general from Nigeria for the period under review. And we are looking at the whistleblower revelation and recoveries which the federal government has publicly declared that they have made recoveries from,” Ghillah said.

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“A lot of what we have to investigate with regards to the whistleblower policy is saddled with the ministry of finance and the attorney-general of the federation.

“The responses we have received from the accountant-general office show that the honourable minister of finance has been approving payments to whistleblowers in percentages at variance with what the policy says they should be paid.

“There have been allegations that the attorney-general is being involved also in the receipt of funds from outside the country without these funds being remitted into the federation account in line with the provisions of the constitution.

 “And there have been allegations that expenditures of these recoveries have also been done in complete violation of the provision of the constitution.”

AGENCIES USE FUNDS FROM TSA WITHOUT APPROVAL

Gbillah said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) wrote to the committee, complaining that some agencies of the government operated their treasury single account (TSA) without getting approval from the apex bank.

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He said the CBN report was “alarming” to this because the constitution stipulates that all revenue accruing to the federation must be paid into the federation account.

 “The CBN made a formal response to this committee indicating that under the TSA policy, agencies operate their TSA account and make expenditures from these accounts without recourse to the CBN,” he said.

“So, if recoveries are being made from whistleblower revelation, we expect these monies to be paid into the account of the federation as required by law and if there is any expenditure to be made, it should come through the national assembly,” he said.

Gbillah said the committee is also expecting the appearance of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission, Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Index (NEITI), oil and gas companies who engage in export, accountant-general of the federation, budget office to “provide clarification to the issues under investigations”.

“There are certain individuals as well that we need to investigate. Certain whistleblower revelations show that from the Paris club refund — hundreds of millions of dollars were paid into company account without any record of whatever services they provided to the country and these are things that need to be investigated,” Gbillah said.

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The lawmaker said the committee will exercise its “statutory powers” to compel the appearance of anyone who fails to honour the summon of the lawmakers.

When contacted to comment on the development, Umar Gwandu, Malami’s spokesperson, said his principal was “never involved” or received funds without remitting to the government.

“Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN was never involved in anything that has to do with the alleged oil products, its disposal or sharing of the resultant proceed by way of negotiation or remittal thereof,” he said.

In December 2022, the house of representatives set up the ad hoc committee to investigate a whistleblower’s claims that 48 million barrels of Bonny Light crude were illegally sold in China in 2015.

The committee was also to investigate all crude oil exports and sales by Nigeria from 2014 till date.

Gbillah had said members of the committee will travel to countries where the whistleblowers reside to get facts on the matter and that the identities of those who will provide the committee with information, documents, and facts on the matter will be protected.

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