SARAKI AND THE MISSING $20BN ISSUE
Before General Muhammadu Buhari travelled to the United States on a four-day official trip, one of the issues dominating the national discourse was the missing $20 billion money in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The issue was first raised by former CBN Governor now Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi.
However, one Senator felt sufficiently peeved that the nation was losing so much resources which could have been used for the benefit of the masses. He then took up the issue of the leakages in the nation’s oil receipts and moved a powerful motion on the floor of the Senate. That Senator is now the head of the upper legislative chamber, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Eventually, the Senate set up a committee to probe allegations that the nation lost $20 billion due to sharp practices in the sector. The report of the committee led by former Kaduna State Governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi turned to be as controversial as the amount of money said to have been lost. While the committee in anti-climax manner failed to directly identify how much was lost and who benefitted from the loss, Saraki refused to sign the report of the investigation into the alleged non-remittance of $20bn by NNPC into the federation account. In his letter dated 3rd of June 2014 to the Committee to explain why he withheld his signature, he wrote: “It is my opinion that this report as laid has not fully addressed the matter referred to us adequately and conclusively. The report has not been definitive on its findings and has failed to address some of the critical issues I had raised during our meetings. For this reason; I am withholding my support and signature.”
The records of the committee are still accessible in the National Assembly and can be verified. The Senator chose to stand by the people, thereby breaking ranks with his colleagues.
Also, it is still on record that Senator Saraki is the only Senator in the committee that refused to sign the report even in the face of severe duress and personal inconvenience. Sen. Saraki during the investigation was known to have been very probing with his questions, meticulously reviewing the data offered by NNPC to get to the bottom of the issue. It would be recalled that though he did not make the last meeting of the committee, when the news broke that the Committee has cleared the NNPC, he was the first and the only senator to rebut the report saying “the recent media reports claiming that the Senate Committee on Finance has cleared NNPC of any unaccounted revenue fund are not true… I have been very active in the investigation, nothing significant has changed to suggest clearing of anyone”. See Thisday Newspapers of May 29, 2014 also online link:
The newspapers publications relating to this is all over the print and electronic media for all who want to find the truth. It is therefore unlikely that he could have cut a deal with the Jonathan administration on this matter as some detractors recently wanted us to believe. Only in the world of fabricators will such a claim be possible.
It is also evident that Senator Saraki’s commitment to see that the missing funds are found and paid back into the Federation Account was never in doubt from day one. It would be recalled that during this investigation, he went out of his way to collaborate with the IHS Information Analytics Expertise and MJHC Limited London, two renowned international organisations with specialty on oil financials, to do further forensic review on this matter. This expensive endeavour undertaken at his own personal expense also underscores the length at which he left no stone unturned to help the Makarfi committee unravel the mystery surrounding the missing funds.
It is therefore laughable for anybody to insinuate that Sen. Saraki met with former President Goodluck Jonathan to discuss the content of the committee’s report. Lest we forget, the committee met for the last time on theFebruary 16, 2014. So, the thought of Senator Saraki working to bring down the number or amount un-remitted in a deal with Goodluck Jonathan is completely false. For the avoidance of doubt, there has been no meeting of any type between Senator Saraki and former President Jonathan since the former left PDP. So any suggestion that the Ex-president Jonathan sent Mr. Chagoury, the Lebanese businessman to Senator Saraki with gifts /money to seek support from him on the report is totally false. Both the Sarakis and Chagourys have been family friends for over 26years.
It should also be remembered that it is because of Saraki’s yeoman’s job on the oil sector fund leakages that he harvested an EFCC case spawn by the Jonathan administration to teach him a lesson for his effrontery. That case which had been investigated without any result has become a blackmail instrument for anybody who hates Saraki’s guts.
In the new politics of the struggle over the Senate leadership, it is not unexpected that this same EFCC case will be dusted up. It will be used again as an instrument of blackmail against Saraki. They will want to pummel him with it. That is the price of leadership. A gallant effort to save the resources of the nation has landed the enemies of a man the instrument to castigate him.
Written by Bamikole Omishore, Special Assistant (online media) to the Senate President.