The federal government introduced the whistleblower policy to give boost to the war against graft as it offers incentives to persons who provide information that lead to recovery of stolen money and or assets. The policy states that a person who proffers information that enables the government to recover stolen or concealed assets is entitled to between 2.5 per cent-5.0 per cent of the amount recovered.
To qualify for the reward, the whistleblower must provide the government with the information it does not already have and could not otherwise obtain from any other publicly available sources. The actual recovery must also be because of the information provided by the whistleblower.
Samano Sa De CV, a Mexican international oil firm, is seeking to invoke this policy so as to make some possible fortunes from the Nigerian government. The owners claimed that they discovered 48 million barrels of crude oil abandoned in storage tanks in China ports. The company also claimed that at the end of several negotiations and conversations, some Nigerian government officials promised to reward them with 5 per cent of the market value of the 48 million barrels when sold at $75 per barrel being the prevailing market price at the time.
In a letter to Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Samano and its officials, Ramirez and Jose Salazar Tinajero, demanded $125 million as compensation for providing information about the alleged theft of the crude oil. However, in a swift reaction, NNPC, in a letter signed by its lawyer, Mr Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN) of Afe Babalola Chambers, dated July 30, 2020 described SAMANO’s claim as part of “a gold-digging scheme aimed at blackmailing and extorting money from the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“We wish to emphatically and unequivocally state for the record that our client vehemently denies your client’s claim that it provided any information to NNPC or the Federal Government of Nigeria which information led to the identification and/or recovery of 48 million barrels of stolen Nigerian Bonny Light Crude Oil stored in the People’s Republic of China.
NNPC’s lawyers further stated that, “It was impossible to ship 48 million barrels of crude oil from Nigeria to China without any record or trace of same” especially because, “as of 2015, the daily production of crude oil in Nigeria was below 1.6 million barrels”.
It is a given that Nigeria is battling illegal oil bunkering, a criminality that has thrived in the country for long. That given, this newspaper finds it hard to accept the claim that 48 million barrels of the country’s oil were abandoned in China in 2015, when daily oil production was below 1.6 million barrels.
Perhaps, the so-called whistleblowers need to be made aware of the fact that their claim implies that the entire crude production of one month was abandoned. Is it possible that one-month crude oil production could disappear without any record or trace?
In our considered opinion, the allegation of abandoned crude oil is not only misguided but also a deliberate attempt to distract the current management of the NNPC which appears bent on repositioning not just the Corporation but the oil and gas sector.
From his assumption of office to date, the Group Managing Director Mallam Mele Kyari has shown the stuff he is made of by embarking on aggressive reforms that if dutifully implemented on a sustained basis, will change the narrative for the better.
Only recently, the federal government launched the AKK pipeline project that holds the potential to feed power plants with adequate fuel energy to generate adequate electricity for homes and businesses.The pipeline can also directly feed industry and commerce with cleaner, cheaper gas energy. In both ways, the AKK pipeline is going to enable the industrial sector of the economy optimize its potential for growth and job creation.
Remarkably, in our opinion, the passage of the Deep Offshore bill into law under the Mele Kyari leadership is also a testament to his enduring efforts at repositioning the national oil company. This is instrumental to the NLNG Train 7 project.
There is no contesting the fact that as Africa’s leading exporter of LNG and the fourth in the world after Qatar, Australia and Malaysia, Nigeria is ready to capture more LNG market with the NLNG Train 7 project which is a strategic project that is intended to transform the country into a prime investment destination generating over $20 billion.
It is interesting to note that also standing to Kyari’s credit is the removal of fuel subsidy from which the federal government currently saves $400m. The policy had over the years drained the country’s scarce resources and several efforts to remove it failed owing to some clannish political expediency but under Mele Kyari, the NNPC literally took the bull by the horns.
It is from this standpoint that we see the claim of Samano as yet another attempt by some unscrupulous characters to rip Nigeria off. We urge NNPC to not only resist it but also use every legal means to expose this foreign company and its local collaborators.