By Jide Ajani
Apparently believing that he had heard and seen the worst of how corrupt practices have brought Nigeria to her knees, President Muhammadu Buhari, last week, almost lost his cool when it was brought to his attention that a whopping $16 billion – at the official exchange rate of N196, this comes to N3.136 trillion; while, with the parallel market rate of N315, it comes to a whopping N5.04trillion) of the nation’s crude oil revenue loss could be traced to some sharp practices by some individuals in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
The quantum of funds in question are revenue that ought to have accrued to the Federal Government of Nigeria through oil-lifting deals which are now subject of intensive investigations.
Specifically, one of the arrow heads of the crude oil lifting scam, who has been invited and interrogated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, at least twice before, has been granted administrative bail, and “who is alleged to be warehousing a sizable chunk of the money, drew the ire of Mr. President”, an Aso Rock Presidential Villa source disclosed.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that even visiting South African President, Jacob Zuma, was caught in the cross winds of Buhari’s reinvigorated mode of anti-corruption, as he ordered that every kobo of the stolen funds must be recovered.
Similarly, information suggests that the government of the United States of America is helping in the provision of intelligence on how to trace some of the stolen funds from Nigeria.
Benin Republic and South Africa have both become safe havens for Nigeria’s stolen funds investigations have revealed.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that once the revelations were made to Buhari, he ordered that EFCC must ensure that the looted funds are recovered.
According to Aso Rock insiders, the funds were “supposed to be proceeds from some of the crude oil sold on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria by these people and for which they were said not to have made the necessary returns to the coffers of the country”.
Continuing, one of the sources said: “You needed to have been there. You needed to have seen Mr. President. He was almost moved to tears at the colossal fraud that had taken place in the country.
“He became dejected because at a time when the nation’s resources had gone down badly, at a time when the foreign reserves are also not as much as would be befitting of a nation with vast potentials, such a huge amount of money can be traced to the illegal activities of some people.
“But Mr. President has ordered that every kobo must be recovered. Whatever it takes, he has made it clear that those funds must be recovered.”
Records of the oil-lifting schedules, timelines of transactions as well as proceeds that were meant to have accrued to government, the source said, “showed that some people just constituted themselves into a parallel government and were just making away with the nation’s resources.”
TRACING STOLEN FUNDS
Sunday Vanguard learnt that, as part of its bilateral agreement on intelligence sharing and anti-money laundering surveillance, the government of the United States is collaborating with the Buhari administration on how to trace some of the stolen funds domiciled in other countries – Benin Republic and South Africa have been identified as safe havens.
Part of the visit of South African President Jacob Zuma was said to be on the apparent reluctance “of the South African government to repatriate some funds stashed in the country.”
It was discovered that whereas the Federal Government has relaxed its forex policy, there has been a heavy movement of cash (in dollars) from Benin Republic back into the system in Nigeria.
The simmering diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africa, sources disclosed, has more to do with the seeming unwillingness of the South African government to repatriate alleged stolen funds that have been traced to that country.
“This was part of what President Zuma came to resolve with Nigeria during his visit last week,” Sunday Vanguard said.