By Daniel Idonor
BARELY three months after the Federal Government promised to probe the missing 90 million litres of petrol belonging to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr Rilwanu Lukman, said he has done his best to probe the matter; even as it appears to has been swept under the carpet.
The minister had disclosed three months ago that the alleged theft was to be investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, but nothing has been heard since, a development that has attracted discomfort among top officials of the ministry, who had insisted that the matter be probed.
Lukman who fielded questions from newsmen, after leading a delegation of Japanese businessmen, to Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, in Abuja, Thursday, denied any complicity in the probe.
Newsmen had asked him to confirm the allegation that the theft has been swept under the carpet, since he is the minister in-charge of petroleum, said, â€œI am in-charge, my responsibility is to ensure that this error is corrected and the lost which NNPC has incurred is restored.
And the law enforcement agencies have been handed over the matter. It is up to them to find out what happened and if there is any criminality or wrongdoing, it is left for them to follow it up and deal with itâ€.
â€œWho has been compromised? Who have been settled, you want me to know? If you are saying people have been settled you are making an accusation, why donâ€™t you say who has been settled, and how they have been settled?â€ he fumed.
â€œWho did they give the money to? If you have the information go and tell it to the police. This would be a very useful information to the police or the EFCC and why are you telling me?â€ the angry minister retorted.
Throwing more light on the missing cargo, the minister said, â€œthey were given the product to store on behalf of NNPC and NNPC was coming from time to time to collect until it finished. This is what happened and when they investigated according to the story you are familiar with it, they found that the firm the product was given to keep had turned it to its own useâ€.
â€œIt is either they turn in the products or pay for it. And this is not the way to do and the whole contract with NNPC and the people concerned. We took the matter to EFCCâ€, he said.
Vanguard gathered that billions of naira is alleged to have exchanged hands in the attempt to sweep the entire issue under the carpet, after the third party company allegedly paid NNPC some billions of naira from the proceeds of the 90 million litres.
It would be recalled that in December 2009, the NNPC had raised an alarm that 90 million litres of its product supplied through third party could not be traced but the minister promptly pledged to get to the root of the matter, but nothing since then has happened.