Axe dangles on ex-ministers, others over oil theft

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday vowed to arrest and prosecute former ministers and government officials found culpable of looting and stealing Nigeria’s crude oil.

He said his administration will recover the mind-boggling funds stashed in foreign bank accounts.

The President, who made the vow during his meeting with members of Nigerians In Diaspora Organization, NIDO, resident in the United States and Canada at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC,.

The President lamented that “corruption in Nigeria has virtually developed into a culture where honest people are abused.”

According to him, the government has established contact with countries with possible traces to the illegally acquired monies, expressing his determination to re-instill the culture of transparency in Nigeria’s public life.

“We are now looking for evidences of shipping of some of our crude, their destinations and where and which accounts they were paid and in which country.

“When we get as much as we can get as soon as possible, we will approach those countries to freeze those accounts and go to court, prosecute those people and let the accounts be taken to Nigeria. 250,000 barrels per day of Nigerian crude are being stolen and people sell and put the money into individual accounts.

“The amount of money is mind-boggling but we have started getting documents where some of the senior people in government and former ministers have as much as five accounts and were moving about one million barrels per day on their own. We have started getting those documents.

“I assure you that whichever documents we are able to get and subsequently trace the sale of the crude or transfer of money from ministries, departments, Central Bank, we will ask for the cooperation of those countries to return those monies to the federation account and we will use those documents to arrest those people and prosecute them. This, I promise Nigerians.

“A lot of damage has been done to the integrity of Nigeria with individuals and institutions already compromised.”

The President also decried the underhand dealings which he said was going on at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, saying that unlike in his days as a Federal Commissioner of Petroleum, “everybody is now behaving anyhow.”

Also speaking on oil subsidy, the President said he was still studying the scenario, saying that total removal of subsidy may have adverse effects on the masses.

According to him, “who is subsidizing who? But, people are gleefully saying ‘remove subsidy’ They want petrol to cost N500 per litre. If you are working and subsidy is removed, you can’t control transport, you can’t control market women, the cost of food, the cost of transport.

“If you are earning N20,000 per day and you are living in Lagos or Ibadan, the cost of transport to work and back, the cost of food will go up and you cannot control the market women because they have to pay what transporters charge them.

“Virtually, half of the Nigerian population will find it difficult to live. Where will they get the money to go to work? How can they feed their families? How can they pay rent? If there is need for removal of subsidy, I will study it. With my experience I will see what I can do. Our refineries are not working, we have a lot of work to do.”

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