03 February 2014, Abuja – The Nigerian Senate has come under intense pressure from the presidency, the petroleum ministry and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation [NNPC] to abandon a planned investigation into the disappearance of a staggering $48.9 billion (about N8 trillion) crude oil money, senators have told PREMIUM TIMES.
A Senate investigative hearing into the scandal, regarded as one of Nigeria’s biggest fraud, billed to commence Thursday, was rescheduled for next Tuesday.
Senators told PREMIUM TIMES the move was part of efforts by the upper chamber of parliament to deflect a growing pressure from multiple government offices, including the presidency, demanding that the probe be suspended.
Lawmakers said the government fears its defiant Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, whose leaked letter to President Goodluck Jonathan first exposed the huge fraud, might provide even far more damaging details at a public hearing.
“The government is suspicious that Sanusi might embarrass President Jonathan and the administration at the hearing,” a senator familiar with the matter said. “So, the presidency and the petroleum ministry is pressuring us not to hold the hearing.
“But we have decided to go ahead. The best concession we made was to shift the hearing forward from Thursday to Tuesday. We can’t cancel it because Nigerians will ask questions.”
In his memo to the president in September 2013, Mr. Sanusi detailed how state-run oil firm, the NNPC, systematically sliced 76 percent of crude oil proceeds between 2012 and 2013, a heist that totalled $48.9 billion.
For each barrel of crude sold, Mr. Sanusi said referencing sales and shipping documents, the NNPC only paid 24 percent of the proceeds into federal government coffers, while the balance was siphoned in an unspecified account.
Many Nigerians fear the money may have been stolen by government officials, but the administration insists not a kobo is missing. Yet, it has failed to fully account for the funds which is the equivalent of Nigeria’s national budget for two years.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum has called for extensive investigation, saying claims by the NNPC were unconvincing, and that it was suspicious the missing funds were in private pockets.
– Premium Times