By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—THE Presidency, yesterday, accused the trio of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke; Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko of looting $3billion from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The Presidency in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande in Abuja, accused the former Petroleum Minister and the two others of making away with the funds through a fraudulent oil deal and failure to pay royalties and taxes.
Meanwhile, Jide Omokore has denied the accusation, saying that the matter is already before the court and proceeding yet to be concluded and no pronouncement of guilt against any person.
Akande in the statement said: “In a strategic alliance contract by the NNPC, three people, Jide Omokore, Kola Aluko and former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke made away with $3b from Nigerian oil that was lifted without paying to the federal government, this is besides the fact that royalties and taxes were not paid.”
“There is an on-going investigation on this matter. These are publicly known information. None of the three of them has come out to deny.”
Akande, who was reacting to the allegation by the spokesman of former President Goodluck Jonathan, accusing Osinbajo of making false corruption allegation against former President Jonathan’s government said: “We read reports attributed to “a media office of former President Jonathan.
“It is clear from the foul language of the authors that the statement could not have come from the former President, but from the motley group of loud and rude characters whose brief seems to be to deny all and anything said against the former PDP government and to do so in the crassest possible language.
“The alleged spokespersons of the former President say that facts long in the public domain, some even being used to prosecute several corruption cases, are lies and that those of us in government restating these well known facts are liars.
“They accuse Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of lying against the former President or his government citing their involvement in the stealing of $3b while speaking recently at The Platform event on May 1.
“Just for clarity, I quote the Vice President, ‘Grand corruption remains the most enduring threat to our economy. The $3b was stolen in what was called the strategic alliance contacts in 2013, three Nigerians were responsible; today, three billion dollars is N1trillion and our budget is N7trillion.’
“Two issues emerged. First, no mention is made of the former President. Second, the story is not only true, it has been in the public domain for almost three years and it is the subject of criminal investigation and trials both here and in the UK.
“The spokespersons also say that the allegations of corruption against the PDP government were mere lies. For clarity, the facts are laid out as follows:
“As the Vice President said, $3B was stolen in the so-called NNPC Strategic Alliance Contracts. The three persons involved are Jide Omokore, Kola Aluko and Diezani Alison- Maduekwe. The companies of both Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko lifted Nigerian crude oil and kept the proceeds.
“The total sums converted is in excess of $3b including royalties, taxes and fees unpaid for the asset from which the crude was taken. The case is the subject of a trial in Nigeria, and criminal investigation in the US and UK, and the assets of all three individuals have been forfeited in Nigeria, the US and the UK.
“The criminal diversion and theft of sums in excess of $2.5 billion meant for purchase of arms to prosecute the war against Boko Haram: The first phase of the investigations revealed several sordid details, many of the assets of culprits have been seized from them and they are facing trial.
“The release of the sum of $289m in cash on February 25, 2015: Documents including cash vouchers indicate that the sum of $289,202,382 was taken from the Joint Venture (JV) Cash Call Account No. 000-0000-11658-366 of the NNPC/NAPIMS with JP Morgan Chase Bank, New York, USA.
“N70 billion was released in parts from the national treasury between January 8 and February 25, 2015. In another illegal disbursement on August 25, 2014, N60B in cash in tranches of N40billion and N20billion: The sum was not tied to any project or procurement and was then shared between two security agencies under the supervision of the then NSA. Most of these sums ended up in the hands of senior PDP members some of whom have returned parts of the loot. Some are standing trial for these offences. These facts are in the public domain.
“There was yet another set of illegal fund withdrawals under one week between January 8and 16, 2015, where the sum of N1.5 billion was released in three tranches of N300m, N400m and N800m respectively. This money was released from the MEA Research Library Account.
“Another document showed that N10 billion was released to the Office of the National Security Adviser by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, on September 15, 2014. The money was released in tranches of foreign exchange of $47 million, $5 million, 4 million Euros and 1.6 million Euros. A letter from the Office of the NSA in November 2014 further showed that the monies were released as ‘funds for special services.’
“This particular release of N10b was sourced in November 2014 from a N40billion CBN released funds meant for Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR. Investigations showed that this money was released for the PDP presidential primaries.”
Omokore in a statement by his counsel, R.A Lawal-Rabana, SAN, said: “We act as solicitors to Jide Omokore and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited. Our attention has been drawn to a release from the office of the Vice President captioned ‘Grand Corruption in Jonathan era: Osinbajo releases details,’ in which he listed Mr Jide Omokore, alongside with Kola Aluko and Diezani Alison- Maduekwe as having stolen $3b from NNPC on a so called NNPC Strategic Alliance Contract.
“As counsel that is involved in representing Jide Omokore in court, we wish to state as follows: That Jide Omokore has not in concert with anybody stolen $3bn as contained in the statement.
“The relationship between Jide Omokore’s company, Atlantic Energy with NNPC/NPDC is well documented as a commercial transaction of which there has been part performance. There is nothing illegal or fraudulent about the transaction.
“The matter is already before the court of law in a criminal proceeding yet to be concluded and there is no pronouncement of guilt or corruption against our client.
“The rule of law requires that a man is presumed innocent until adjudged guilty through a fair judicial process. Therefore, in this case, we wonder where the emphatic conclusion from the office of the vice President came from.
“In the best tradition of the bar, when a matter is subjudice, as senior counsel, I will not delve into the merit or otherwise of the ongoing trial except to say and caution against prejudicing the public and the entire judicial process.
“We therefore, urge the office of the vice president to exercise restraint in branding people as corrupt without a judicial pronouncement to that effect.
“In conclusion, having regard to the facts and circumstances of this particular case, we believe that the office of the vice president has been misinformed.”