An Ad-hoc Committee that was set up by the House of Representatives to investigate the alleged loss of over $2.4bn in revenue from the illegal sale of 48 million barrels of crude oil in 2015 including crude oil exports from 2014 to date has cleared the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd of any wrongdoing.
The Committee which was constituted on December 20th and headed by Hon. Mark Gbillah Terseer submitted it’s report to the House on Wednesday, June 7.
In it’s recommendations, the committee states that there is no evidence of wrongdoing against the Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPC, Malam Mele Kyari with regards to these allegations
It also absolved the current Chief Executive of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Engr Gbenga Komolafe, who was the Executive Director of NNPC Upstream department when these allegations were made.
The allegations about 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s crude oil stored in China being sold illegally without the proceeds being remitted into the account of the Federation surfaced in 2015 immediately after the advent of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration but only became rife after an online news platform-Point Blank News published the story with attachments that included a letter to the then Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) from a Nigerian law firm called Lords & Temple.
The law firm had claimed to be solicitors to a Mexican company called SAMANO SA DE CV and its President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) a certain Jose Salazar Tinajero.
The law firm claimed in the letter that Mr Tinajero was approached by an unidentified group in China in 2015 about the intention of the NNPC to sell 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s Bonny Light crude which they alleged had been stolen from Nigeria and stored in tank farms in China.
The letter from Lords & Temple also claimed Mr Tinajero provided the information about the stolen crude to then NNPC Group General Manager (GGM) Crude Oil Marketing Department (COMD) Malam Mele Kyari who was the NNPC Group Managing Director (GMD) when the letter was written by the law firm, the late Chief of Staff to the President and Retired Air Commodore Umar Mohammed Gololo.
The law firm claimed their client became aware in October 2015 of the efforts by the NNPC to sell the allegedly stolen crude in China and wrote an email to Malam Mele Kyari through an associate of their client a certain Marco Antonio Ramirez expressing their interest to buying the crude but did not receive a positive response from Kyari or the Nigerian Government.
The law firm also claims officials of their client were exposed to the threat of life harassment and persecution for seeking compensation from the Nigerian government for the information they provided about allegedly stolen crude oil cargoes in China and subsequently wrote additional letters to the then Minority Leader of the Senate Senator Godswill Akpabio and the former Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) Malam Lawal Musa Daura about their claims.
The letter from the law firm was accompanied by attachments which were published by Point Blank News and included alleged authorization by NNPC bonny terminal for the sale of 9 million barrels of crude oil in storage in unverified tank farms in China which was allegedly part of an approved quantity to be lifted from the Bonny terminal, alleged storage information from the tank farms in China.
It also contained copies of alleged email and WhatsApp exchanges between representatives of SAMANO SA DE CV (Jose Salazar Tinajero and Marco Antonio Ramirez) with Kyari, an alleged picture of SAMANO representatives with Kyari at Transcorp Hilton, alleged picture of Jose Salazar Tinajero with Air Commodore Umar Mohammed (Rtd) and copies of letters written by Mr Tinajero on behalf of SAMANO to the President which the law firm confirmed was not delivered.
During the course of it’s investigation, the Committee discovered that neither Ramirez or Tinajero has provided or has been able to provide the identity of the so-called group in China that alerted Mr Tinajero to the existence of up to 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s Bonny Light crude oil in China to ascertain the veracity of their claims.
It was further discovered by the Committee that contrary to claims by Lords & Temple in their letter that their client was in possession of documents including bank transfer details, names of vessels and their captains to show that the allegedly stolen crude was illicitly sold by some officials of the Nigerian government and the NNPC, none of these documents or any other documents have been provided by either Rarnirez or Tinajero to corroborate their allegations.
From records made available to the Committee, it was able to establish that Nigeria produces about 250,000 barrels of bonny light crude daily and is exported mainly from one terminal (Bonny) so it would take about 6 months and 12 days for up to 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s bonny light crude to be produced.
“It is not feasible to think for over half a year the entire quantity of this very sought after type of crude oil grade produced by Nigeria and exported from this terminal was stolen out of the country without trace. 48 million barrels of crude translates to not less than 48 vessel cargoes of crude oil using the
usual maximum loading quantity of averagely around 950,000 barrels per vessel with adequate draft at the terminal.
“It is not feasible that up to 48 vessels which have identifiable IMO numbers would be utilized to steal Nigeria’s crude oil without a trace when a letter of credit (LC) is usually required to be issued for each crude oil export from Nigeria,” the Committee said in its report.
In the Committee ‘s report, the DSS was said to have confirmed receipt of a letter from Jose Salazar Tinajero to the former DSS DG on behalf of SAMANO SA DE CV alleging existence of stolen crude oil from Nigeria in China.
Considering the magnitude of these allegations the DG responded to the letter expressing the interest of the service to verify these allegations and requesting that SAMANO provide the service with related documents and evidence to assist the service in carrying out its investigation.
The DSS did not receive corroborating evidence or documents from SAMANO and after very high-level correspondence and communication with the authorities in China, the DSS concluded in correspondence to the committee that the entire allegations by SAMANO were a scam intended for a pecuniary benefit;
The report added, “Mr Jose Salazar Tinajero has previously been arrested in Paraguay for trying to smuggle gold, bronze, zinc and other metals into the US city of Atlanta. He was also indicted in the US city of Maryland for fraudulently reporting the social security number of another US citizen who he has no relation with and for utilizing addresses he had no connection with or presence at for companies he registered in the US. Please see attached documents in related Annexure.
” Marco Antonio Ramirez has previously been indicted for crimes in the United States and was found guilty in Nigeria of defrauding Nigerians to the tune of $ 2.5 million and is currently serving a jail term in the Ikoyi prisons. Alhaji Ahmed Hamma Saleh himself was defrauded by Mr Ramirez after he paid what he believed would be an investment towards American citizenship.
“The credibility and character of the individuals who made the allegations of stolen Nigerian crude oil cargoes in China are clearly questionable and was emphasized by their desire for monetary compensation from the Nigerian government for information that was not corroborated and did not lead to any recovery by the Nigerian government which is the premise upon which compensation can be considered in line with the whistleblower policy of the government after a formal agreement in that regard which did not happen in this instance.”
On the interface and exchange of messages between the group and Kyari, the Committee in it’s report stated that Kyari in 2015 was the NNPC Group General Manager (GGM) Crude Oil Marketing Department (COMD) when these individuals made these allegations and considering the issues under investigation were directly under his purview before the Petroleum Industry Act, he was delegated by the government to interface with them during the course of the government’s investigation.
He was also constrained to manage the relationship with Ramirez and Tinajero the main proponents of the allegations and their new Nigerian cohorts to ensure the government was able to obtain the facts.
The report added, This explains the existence of photographs, email, WhatsApp and text correspondence with some of these individuals as he could not carry out the government’s bidding without directly interfacing and relating with these individuals.
“Malam Mele Kyari’s termination of his interaction with these individuals after the government determined their allegations were false and fraudulent displeased them because of the privileges they felt they enjoyed and informed their obsession with making personal accusations against him.
“There is no evidence of wrongdoing against Malam Mele Kyari with regards to these allegations. The current Commission Chief Executive of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) Engr Gbenga Komolafe was the Executive Director of NNPC Upstream department when these allegations were made but was not involved in the investigation of these allegations as the government did not involve.
“He was previously a member of a presidential committee investigating crude oil theft in 2014 as NNPC
representative but this committee was unrelated to these allegations and the committee completed its assignment before these allegations came to the fore.
“The is no evidence of wrongdoing against Engr Gbenga Komolafe with regards to these allegations. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the then NNPC with regards to these allegations.”
The committee advised the National Assembly (Senate and the House), anti-graft and other
agencies of government not to waste taxpayer’s funds on further future investigation of these
allegations as they appear to be completely fraudulent and unsubstantiated.
“The security and anti-graft agencies should be advised to prosecute any of the individuals who
initially made these allegations if any one of them continues to peddle these false allegations
after the committee’s investigation;
The Abuja Height court handling the case against the related individuals is advised to resume the hearing and prosecution of the case so justice can be meted out appropriately if any of the individuals are found culpable.
“Mr Jackson Ude and Point Blank News should be advised to issue a public retraction of their publication of these allegations on their website and other media outlets considering the damage this publication has done to the reputation of related government officials and should strongly be admonished to be more circumspect in their future publications,” the Report concluded.