The United States of America has handed over the names of Nigerian oil thieves to President Muhammadu Buhari, a member of the President’s entourage during last week’s visit to the US confided in The PUNCH on Tuesday.
“I can tell you that the President already has the list of names of the people engaging in the stealing of Nigeria’s oil. The list, when released by the President, will shock Nigerians. But let’s wait and see first,” the source said.
The source said Buhari was taken aback when he saw the names on the list and that the list given to the President by the US might compel him to probe the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The source, who told our correspondent about the list in the President’s possession, said the US gave Buhari two separate lists – one listing the names of top government officials who have been stealing the country’s oil, using their high offices to perpetrate the stealing; and the other containing the names of illegal oil bunkerers.
The President had said last week that some ministers in the cabinet of Jonathan were stealing as much as 250,000 barrels of Nigeria’s crude daily.
The Presidency source, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said Buhari had vowed that those whose names appeared on the list would not go scot-free.
“The President will probe all of them and make sure they return whatever fortune they had made from their thievery,” the source said.
The source said the President was already tinkering with the idea of constituting a panel to investigate those on the list with a view to arriving at how to deal with them based on the findings of the committee.
However, it was gathered that, unlike the usual probe panels, the President would likely set up a special security team to handle the probe.
The PUNCH learnt that the names on the list of oil thieves are a mixture of highly placed government officials, and retired and serving military officers.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress said on Tuesday that it supported the probe of the Jonathan administration by Buhari in the light of mind-boggling corruption that had been uncovered by the Federal Government.
“Some people have insinuated that the Buhari administration should ignore the massive looting of our patrimony and move on. We say no responsible government can afford to do that, because it will amount to endorsing corruption and impunity,’’ the party said in a statement issued in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
The APC said billions of dollars had been skimmed off by “pathologically-corrupt public officials” in the oil sector alone, wondering how the government of the day could meet its obligations to the citizens if it refused to recover the huge funds taken away by thieving officials
Mohammed’s statement read, ‘‘It is an irony that those who are suggesting that the Buhari administration should turn a blind eye to the incomprehensible looting are the same ones accusing the government of not doing anything.
“It is even a cruel irony that the same party that presided over what is fast emerging as the worst governance in the history of our country is the same one that is daily bad-mouthing an administration that is cleaning up its mess.
‘‘Where does one start from? Is it the fact that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation failed to remit N3.8tn to the Federation Account or the mind-blowing stealing of 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day?
“Is it the fact that the NNPC itself does not know how many bank accounts it had or into which ones the payments for Nigerian crude are made? Could anyone have imagined that a government minister would steal the unprecedentedly-huge amount of US $6bn of public funds as being alleged?
‘‘How does any sane person rationalise the fact that $1bn was unilaterally and illegally withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account just because, as the immediate past Minister of Finance has disclosed, the President ordered the withdrawal? What about the billions of naira waivers recklessly approved to dubious importers by the Jonathan administration?”
It added, ‘‘Is it not clear now that the stealing and the profligacy – more than anything else, including the fall in oil price – helped to drastically reduce the monthly allocation from the Federation Account from about N800bn to about N400bn , thus pauperising the states and the local governments, and by extension the citizenry?
“Against the background of the stunning revelations, what message will any government be sending to its citizens and indeed the global community by looking the other way, when it could still recover some of the looted funds for the benefit of the people?
“This is why we are supporting the Buhari administration’s probe decision and we are calling on all Nigerians to support ongoing efforts to get to the root of the matter.”
The APC said it was clear that the Jonathan administration had deliberately delayed giving the then incoming Buhari government the handover notes so as to avoid being asked critical questions pertaining to the looting under its watch.
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party said it was on the same page with Buhari in the fight against corruption, but that due process must be followed.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, in Abuja on Tuesday, said the clarification became necessary so as to remove any misconception that it was against the decision of the present administration to probe some past officials of government because they were PDP members.
Metuh said, “The PDP supports the decision of the Federal Government to fight corruption in our country.
“However, we make bold to state that it should not be disguised to victimise innocent citizens. Democracy has come to stay in Nigeria and no citizen, irrespective of political, religious or ethnic affiliation, should be denied access to due process and the rule of law in the process.”
He added, “Furthermore, we make bold to state that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. In that regard, therefore, we advise members of the APC blowing the horn ahead of the cart to keep quiet because many of them have been major beneficiaries of corruption and sleaze associated with themselves and their allies, especially one of them who as a disguised errand boy of a well-known APC leader is a major beneficiary of the largesse of perpetrators of corruption.
“Apart from Mr. President, who for now, is not associated with any sleaze or corrupt activity in this democracy, most APC leaders are still those who as governors, ministers and labour leaders have been the worst corrupt set of Nigerians ever to bestride the political landscape of the country.
“It is a great miscarriage of perception therefore for the APC leaders who are perpetrators of sleaze and corrupt acts to attempt to deceive Nigerians with imaginary holiness in this anti-corruption war by the President.”
Consequently, he called on the President, as the leader of the APC to remove the log in the eyes of his party while “we support his commitment to remove the speck from the eyes of others.”