- Crude oil loading is free for all
Lagos — Mr. Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonyinma was a member of the House of Representatives representing Egor/Ikpoba-Okha constituency between 2015 and 2019. During the period he served in various capacities including chairing the Committee on Nigeria-US Parliamentary Relations. He also investigated the incidence of crude oil theft and made discoveries that are still begging for answers. He shares his findings in this interview with Hector Igbikiowubo of SweetcrudeReports.
May we know who you are sir?
I was in the House of Representatives between 2015 and 2019. I am Ehiozuwa Agbonyinma and I am currently a Federal Commissioner, Code of Conduct Bureau
While you were in the House of Representatives, what Committees were you assigned to?
I was in so many Committees, but I was the Chairman of the US-Nigeria Parliamentary Relations Committee. The Speaker at the time, Honourable Yakubu Dogara found me worthy, and he gave me so much responsibility and to participate in some of the committees that had to do with investigating some of these different MDAs and agencies of the government.
Let’s look at crude oil theft because that is one of the things you looked at while you were in the House. What period did your investigation of crude oil theft cover?
What happened is that I moved a motion sometime in September 2015 and the motion was very clear and specific. It called for the urgent need to investigate over $17 billion stolen from undeclared crude oil and liquefied natural gas sales to global destinations. The House set up an ad hoc committee to investigate but before moving the motion I had done quite a lot of work. You can’t just move a motion without having a lot of data, having intelligence gathering, looking at various areas, so that you have information because the key factor here is information. While digging, sometimes to get information is difficult. That made me to push for this investigation. The motion for investigation covered 2011 to 2014, focusing on undeclared crude oil that went to global destinations. I focused on that of the United States because I was the Chairman of the US-Nigeria Parliamentary Relations and I had the opportunity to have relationships in the United States Congress, the US Embassy and various US Departments. Having lived in America for over 30 years, I was able to get support from some of the US Congress members and some of my friends in the US. I also relied on my contacts in Nigeria who also gave me a lot of information because information is power. President Jonathan, under his regime, I think Chief Tompolo wanted to see how this issue of crude oil being stolen could be put to rest. He said some people have been blaming militants that they are the ones involved in bunkering in the Niger Delta region, but Tompolo had his reservations that this is not just militants doing bunkering. He was of the view that the major oil theft by the cabal included highly placed men and women in the society with the connivance of the international oil companies, IOCs. He recommended to Mr. President to set up an investigation to ascertain the crude oil that is leaving Nigeria’s water ways to global destinations. At the time, I think the President wanted to convince Diezani (the petroleum minister then) to do that but Diezani did not want to do it. People didn’t know this, Tompolo almost fought Diezani physically that this investigation must be done because the people of the Niger Delta had been suffering over the years with nothing to write home about. Mr. President is still alive, and you can verify my claims. He said do not investigate past governments, investigate my own government, that was the brief from former President Jonathan. And that was exactly what happened. Mr. President through NIMASA was able to engage Molecular Power Systems, a Nigerian firm and Molecular Power Systems decided to engage a foreign firm, which is very well known all over the world. They decided to do justice to the task, a holistic investigation, data gathering to check and see all the vessels leaving Nigeria to global destinations and to find out the volume of crude oil that have left this country. To the glory of God, Lumos was the company which did a fantastic work.
As a result of the investigation, how much crude oil were you able to ascertain was stolen during the period under review?
Let’s take it one after the other. The crude oil that landed in the United States port of Houston and port of Lake Charles, these are information produced by the US Customs – 391,141,049 million barrels, that is from Nigeria to the United States alone. We have the vessel numbers, we have the IMO number, we have the loading date, we have the loading order, we have the offtake date, offtake owner, offtake country and the number of barrels involved.
Is your record of what was shipped to the United States at variance with NNPC records?
All these are undeclared.
Wow! Wow!! Undeclared!!!
Undeclared! NNPC could not provide data. You go to India and the volume of undeclared crude from Nigeria to that country stood at 226,352,489 million barrels. We have the vessel numbers, the names of the vessels, the loading dates, the loading point, the offtake owner, the offtake date, the country and the product volume. The port of Netherland received 153,921,151 million barrels. Spain received 115,413,332 million barrels at different dates and times.
Are you saying that all of these volumes of undeclared crude oil receipts took place under the President Jonathan administration alone?
Yes, because he asked us to focus on only his administration. He wanted his own government to be investigated. This investigation spans 2011 to 2014.
How much money do you reckon that the Nigeria state lost as a result of this brazen theft during the period under review?
The volume of undeclared crude oil to the United States alone is over $17 billion. We investigated 41 out of a total of 51 countries. We paid the consultant through NIMASA. We had an agreement with the consultant and the first payment to the consultant was $5 million. I wish you were around here so that I can really speak my mind. When talking over the phone, sometimes it is very hard because you can’t do justice to the subject. The United Kingdom received 54,781.250 million barrels; South Africa received 54,255,156 million barrels; Brazil received 52,693,750 million barrels; Ivory Coast received 48,637,499 million barrels; Indonesia 41,788,250 million barrels; Canada received 40,154,322 million barrels; Germany received 26,508,915 million barrels; Sweden received 22,445,050 million barrels; Australia received 21,423,826 million barrels; Cameroun received 18,490,500 million barrels; Peru received 18,434,500 million barrels; China received 15,904,750 million barrels; Ghana received 13,333,832 million barrels; Senegal received 13,380,500 million barrels; Uruguay received 8,738,250 million barrels; Togo received 8,738,000 million barrels, Portugal received 8,506,500 million barrels; Turkey received 5,315,000 million barrels; Japan received 4,352,000 million barrels; Egypt received 3,304,500 million barrels; Singapore received 3,449,450 million barrels; Ireland received 2,686,998 million barrels; Croatia received 2,188,000 million barrels; Thailand received 1,921,000 million barrels; Malaysia received 1,991,000 million barrels; Greece received 1,104,500 million barrels. Now calculate how much dollars! Do you know what is painful! The former President engaged a lawyer from the United States, Attorney Stanley Jerome. He was the lead counsel for Lumos Group of companies out of the United States. That’s the company that undertook the investigation of undeclared crude oil. I went to the US four times. The United States Congress gave us due support and the US Customs gave a lot. If not because the US Customs gave their own report, we would have been saddled with red tape and we wouldn’t have known exactly where the crude oil that left Nigeria went to. Now the NNPC has millions of questions to answer. This undeclared crude oil is sold. The lawyer in the US came to Nigeria, the Nigerian lawyer engaged by the government compromised, they connived with the IOCs. So, the lawyer from the United States said that the only way we can get our money back is to take the litigation to the United States because he does not have trust in the system here in Nigeria. So the only way he can get results and return the stolen oil back to Nigeria is to bring the litigation back to the United States.
Considering the records before you, what is the total volume of crude oil that was stolen during this period?
Just calculate what I’ve given you. These are various countries.
What’s the average price of crude you used for your investigation during this period under review? We are trying to ascertain the total loss to the Nigerian State, you may recall you said that the US alone amounted to $17 billion.
You can go back and check because as at that time we had to use the best market prices. Nigeria uses best market prices, and we don’t want to bandy figures.
What do you reckon is the level of complicity of the NNPC in this whole saga of undeclared, albeit stolen crude oil?
The NNPC must come clean! The NNPC recently claimed that it had just discovered a pipeline running 4 kilometers into the high sea, taking our crude oil to foreign destinations. I heard they say it’s been there for 9 years. Are they telling us that they knew exactly when it was put in place? How did they know that it’s been there for 9 years? Who told them? It might as well have been there for 15 years. Look at the degree of corrosion on the pipeline. There’s definitely more to it.
What about the IOCs? These volumes you have mentioned are quite huge and I want to believe that most of it was taken directly from the terminals?
It might surprise you to know that we had a meeting with the IOCs. I must commend the role the DPR played in supporting us. The NNPC were owing and they failed to remit to the Federation account. The NPDC were also owing and they claimed that the had negotiated with the DPR to be allowed to pay $10 million every month. My question to them at the time was, where are you getting this $10 million you are paying every month? Government is continuous, they may not have been the ones who stole the money, the money may have been stolen before they got there but I want you to clarify for us, where are you going to get this $10 million you want to be paying. That’s a question I couldn’t get an answer.
Let us look at the security agencies. What do you reckon is their level of complicity in all this?
The former Director, DSS, Mr Ejiofor, during his time in office said that Tompolo said to him, ‘am I a staff of the military, he said no. Am I a staff of the navy, he said no. Am I a staff of Customs, he said no. Am I a staff of the police, he said no. Then there’s no way….
Let us look at foreign financial institutions that received these monies. They received payments in USD and $17 billion for undeclared crude oil receipts for the US alone is quite huge. Did you get in touch with some of these financial institutions and what do you reckon is their level of complicity in all of this?
To be honest it’s mind boggling because what we need to do is not about company A to take action. I think by the grace of God, the end would justify the means. When I commenced this pursuit many years ago, the media took it upon themselves. The print and electronic media were very much interested to make sure that we see the end of it and before you know it, the enthusiasm was quenched. Now it is back again and don’t be surprised that these issues that we have talked about, who told you that they have stopped it!
Let’s revisit the money trail, did you talk with these financial institutions? They received payment and it should be easy to determine who got paid for undeclared crude oil taken from Nigeria.
At the time it was costing me so much but I do have details of the banks, the money transfer to various accounts. I do have those accounts and the amount transferred to those accounts by each IOC. That’s the reason why the lawyer engaged by Molecular Power Systems and Lumos Group in Houston, Texas said that the money stolen from Nigeria must be returned back to the people of Nigeria. I will send you the video.
Basically, you are saying that monies were paid to the IOCs?
In every transaction you have the buyer, and you have the seller.
Did your investigation establish who the sellers are because if it is undeclared it goes to reason that the Nigerian government didn’t receive payment. If the Nigerian government didn’t receive payment, did their partners the IOCs receive payment for this crude oil that was undeclared?
First of all how can three hundred and ninety-one million barrels arrive the United States and the NNPC cannot provide or produce the figure. Rather, they are saying that nothing left Nigeria. But something landed in America.
Clearly, there is complicity on the part of the NNPC and their partners?
They must come clean. I’ve been shouting all these years, I’ve asked them to explain, I’ve challenged them. I’ve challenged the IOCs, Chevron, ExxonMobil. It got to a point where I had to talk to my committee representatives, I said look, we have to travel to Escravos but my committee members said no because they were scared of the terrain. A lot of people don’t like the idea of travelling on the high sea, water ways and all that. I couldn’t be bothered because I am from the Niger Delta. We flew down there. The meter they use in metering are outdated; it doesn’t work. Crude oil loading is free for all. We went with our camera, but they said they didn’t want us to do any recording, but I was able to record with my phone. I asked them who purchased this meter, that is the meter they use for metering, that is when they are taking crude? The meter is purchased by the IOC, operated by them, calibrated by them, and owned by them. They told me that the NNPC would normally nominate one of the IOCs to purchase the meter. Do you know that the Navy, Customs, Police, NPA, NNPC staff, all of them are supposed to be at the terminal and point of loading but none of them is there. The IOCs don’t allow it. We just give them license to steal. They said that we produce two million barrels per day, that is a bunch of lies. Let me tell you what they have been doing, when the militants would take 0.1%, they would now steal70-80% and attribute the total loses to the activities of militants.
This sounds crazy! But considering your findings, what measures do you think would be required for the country to stem this incidence of crude oil theft?
Like the US lawyer said, we must go back to the drawing board and having litigations here would not lead us anywhere. We must make sure that we enter litigation against these perpetrators in America.
Do you think the current administration has the political will to chase such a matter?
When you fight corruption, corruption fights back. The Attorney General has been trying, I am not his spokesman, but I must state it the way it is. When I started this investigation, he gave me moral support. I know how much I spent of my own personal money to travel to the US. It wasn’t the National Assembly that sponsored me to go to the US to investigate, I sponsored myself. I was doing it for my country. At a time, they were calling my late mother and urging her to warn me to steer clear of the matter. They were even calling my sisters living abroad bandying threats. Nobody will live here forever; America was built by Americans. Nigeria must be built by Nigerians. Let me tell you, all these IOCs, all they do is to come here, collect, rape us, take our resources and take the money back to their country to invest. They destroy our lands, the people of the Niger Delta can no longer farm, the fishermen can no longer fish, the fishing industry is comatose, and all this is to the detriment of the people. The oil spill that took place in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil company had to pay through their nose but look at the spillage in the Niger Delta region, even the gas flaring penalties that should be paid, over $14.2 billion that is due to the host communities, they have refused to pay. I investigated all of this. Can they do this elsewhere? It is only in Nigeria, it is free for all, Nigeria is a dumping ground, and we are our own worst enemies. They come here to defraud us because they connive with our people.
What is your take on the state of affair at the NDDC?
I moved the motion for a forensic audit of the NDDC, I will send you a copy of that motion. If the billions of monies that have been budgeted for the Niger Delta had been put to good use, the area would be better than Dubai. Our people are our own worst enemies. We need to ask our people questions; we need to ask our governors questions. We have the NDDC, we have the Niger Delta ministry, we have the Amnesty Office, we have 13% derivation, we have federal allocation. Have our people asked questions! It is too easy to be blaming the center. The same way the center is getting share of the Nigerian wealth. We have three tiers of government, federal, state and local. The money that is allocated to the local government is being consumed by the state governors because the governors, but the local government are closer to the people than the state. They have marginalized, ridiculed, jettisoned, enslaved the wish of the constitution and that is a breach of the law. Mr. President cannot say I am going to have a caretaker governor, but the governor installs a caretaker as local government chairman and this is undemocratic. All we do is to blame the center. Some governors are doing the right thing while most of the governors have refused to yield to the laws of the land.
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