Madam Diezani in trouble again as EFCC uncover $1.3b withdrawal from NNPC accounts

Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dieziani Alison-Madueke, has been accused of withdrawing $1.3 billion from the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC to fight kidnappings in the Niger Delta region. The Nation reports that the withdrawal was made when she was in office and had no approval from the National Assembly nor the Federal Executive Council.

Dieziani is alleged to have sidelined the then Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and was taking orders directly via a memo from ex-President Goodluck Jonathan without recourse to the board of the NNPC.

A former Group Executive Director, Finance and Accounts of NNPC, Bernard Otti, has been quizzed by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC detectives. Otti is said to have also made available to the EFCC some documents, including approvals to withdraw the $1.3billion by Mrs Alison-Madueke.

In two other instances, Jonathan wrote on two other requests mandating the former minister to take part of the cash from either NNPC Security Vote Account or from the “Gas Fund”.

According to sources, EFCC operatives were almost closing up the probe of the ex-Minister when the withdrawal of the $1.3billion was uncovered.

About $1.4billion was requested by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) via three memos, for “Intervention for Urgent National Security Projects.” About $1.3billion was released from NNPC accounts but it was unclear what became of the $100million balance as at press time. The Office of the National Security Adviser that was headed at the time by Namadi Sambo, had requested for $1.4billion between March 27th 2014 and May 5th 2014 when approval was given and cash backed.

About three memos were sent to ex-President Jonathan on March 27th 2014, 31st March 2014 and May 5, 2014.

In the first memo of March 27th, 2014, the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, requested for $1billion to fight kidnapping, crude oil theft and petroleum pipeline vandalism.

The memo to Jonathan, which was titled “Request for intervention for urgent National Security Projects”, said

“Your Excellency, apart from the insurgency in the Northeast, the country is also contending with some other security challenges, such as crude oil theft, sea piracy, kidnapping as well as petroleum pipeline vandalism. These challenges have greatly affected revenue profile of the nation and our international image. Our gas pipeline network has also come under serious threat as the scourge of vandalism has spread to the gas sector. Apart from the volatility of gas and its potential for collateral damage, especially environmental degradation, shortage of gas will constitute a serious setback to Government’s power generation efforts. Additionally, Mr. President had promised during the 30th meeting of NEPAD Heads of State and Governments Orientation Committee that the Trans-Saharan Pipeline Project from Nigeria to Algeria will be completed in 2015. The security of the Nigerian end of this pipeline network is critical to the success and smooth running of this gas project. Further to Mr. President’s support so far in our fight against terrorism, there is urgent need to raise our intelligence gathering efforts to more strategic levels. It is therefore pertinent that a holistic approach is applied to solving these challenges highlighted above. To ameliorate the above mentioned challenges, some reputable companies have been identified to provide the following:

(a) An integrated maritime domain awareness platform that can be integrated into enforcement platform of the Navy and other agencies to help check crude oil theft, sea piracy and kidnapping as well as Offshore pipeline vandalism.

(b) An Onshore petroleum and gas pipeline surveillance and monitoring solution.

(c) Unmanned aerial platforms for strategic intelligence gathering.

(d) Mobile radars for aerial coverage by the Nigerian Air Force

(5) In view of the foregoing, Mr. President is kindly requested to approve the provision of $1billion intervention funds to enable the urgent provision of the above-mentioned services. Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest esteem.”

Commenting on the ONSA memo, ex-President Jonathan on March 31, 2014 approved the release of $1billion. He said: “HMPR, NSA, Paragraph approved.”

A follow-up memo on March 31, 2014 to Mrs. Alison-Madueke and the ex-NSA conveyed the approval.

The memo, signed by a former Senior Special Assistant (Admin) Matt Aikhionbare, said: “RE: Request for intervention projects for urgent National Security Projects.” Reference: (A) Letter NSA/SH/600/A dated 27th March 2014 on the above subject matter. I am directed to forward Reference A to you and to convey to you Mr. President’s approval of Paragraph (5). Humbly submitted for your further action sir.”

In spite of the initial approval, ONSA on April 9, 2014, via a memo NSA/SH/600/A asked for a fresh $200million.

The second memo said:

“Your Excellency, please refer to your letter PRES/88-3/MPR/716/149/NSA/ 634 of 31st March 2014 on the above subject. During our review of the process, we realised a few gaps in the assessment of the protection of the gas pipelines, which will likely render the entire protection plan incomplete as the inland gas network was not considered. In view of this, I crave the indulgence of Mr. President to please approve an additional $200million only to enable a thorough security of the pipelines. Please, accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest esteem.”

Following the receipt of a second memo, the ex-President wrote: “Approved. Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources to release funds from the “Gas Fund”.

In a third memo of May 5,2014(NSA/SH/ 600/A), the ex-NSA applied for additional $250million to be sourced from the account of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), which is a subsidiary of NNPC.

The memo states:

“Your Excellency, in our efforts to continue building capacity for our counter-terrorism efforts, it is pertinent we appropriately and speedily respond to challenges thrown up by the insurgents. This is in addition to several proactive measures already in place by government through the security forces. In view of the above, there is need for urgent intervention in the following areas:

(a) Provision of at least 15,000 ballistic vests and helmets to be issued to all troops in the operations

(b) Provision of 15 mobile scanners to cover entrances to Abuja and strategic cities in the North.

(c) Purchase of urgently needed ammunition for the Nigerian Air Force.

(d) Purchase of ammunition for the Nigeria Police

(e) Purchase of Night Vision Goggles for both the Army and the Air Force.

“To achieve the above-listed objectives, it is estimated that the sum of $250million only will be required. The money could be released from the security funds held by the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS).

“In view of the above, Mr. President is kindly requested to direct the release of $250million only for the above-mentioned subject. Please accept the assurances of my highest esteem.”

In his response, the ex-President directed as follows: “Please, release US$200m only from NNPC Security Vote.”

An EFCC office who spoke on condition of anonymity, said

Investigation so far confirmed the withdrawal of the $1.3billion from some accounts of the NNPC abroad. But there are sufficient clues of suspected money laundering by the ex-Ministers of Petroleum Resources and some government agencies who used ONSA as a platform. There is no evidence of projects executed with the cash. Instead, some of the cash were wired into a few banks by these individuals. We have also grilled a former Group Executive Director, Finance and Accounts of NNPC, Mr. Bernard Otti who has cooperated with our investigators by making necessary documents available. We will keep you posted on this case.”

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