A Commissioner in the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Johnson Agbonayinma, alleges that past presidents and heads of state have been involved in oil bunkering and theft. In this interview on Arise TV monitored by David Lawani, the former member of the House of Representatives, speaks on the need to prosecute economic saboteurs, irrespective of their status.
There had been a series of calls on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the oil and gas sector as a result of crude oil theft. This is coming when the Group Managing Director of NNPC disclosed that we are losing about $700m per day as a result of crude oil theft. What do you think is the solution?
I have been on this issue for so many years. We are all Nigerians. And we must be responsible and accountable to our dear nation. The situation of crude oil theft in this nation is appalling, disheartening, and unacceptable. I think one of the cardinal points of Mr. President’s agenda, Prescient Buhari is the fight against oil theft. And if you ask me, I understand that a lot of people are trying to derail the wheel of progress of Mr. President. Yes, the issue of the oil theft didn’t just start today or yesterday. It has been ongoing for so many years. There was an attorney, from the USA engaged by the federal government who meant well to our brother, President Jonathan. He saw that the crude oil theft in Niger Delta was Tompolo. He decided to have a good initiative with him. He approach the former president and through a forensic investigation, unravelled the people behind it. Because at that time, they were blaming the militants for oil bunkering. Yes, there was oil bunkering but the most important thing is all the oil that has gone to a global destination. They were been taken away by the cabals. This crude oil is something that you and I know. It has derailed this country from moving forward. What can he do now, I want to say that those who are saying that there should be a state of emergency are not far away from the truth. But, I will not say that is the major issue now. It is for us to bring in measures to combat the menace of corruption. Because of the crude oil theft that is going through the back door outside this country where a country doesn’t even know the number of deductions we do produce daily. With the metering that we used today, you will be shocked. The meter that they use for purchase is outdated as used by the multinational companies to the detriment of all Nigerians. Mr. President, unfortunately, we have not been fair to him. And some of us have not been fair to Nigerians too that the crude oil theft, the circle that has put the serious cabal they know themselves. Mr Abati, you were in government during the time you serve former president Jonathan. And at the end of the day, they set up an engagement with molecular power systems. They signed a contract with that company which also engage the USA firm to track all vessels leaving the soil of Nigeria to global destinations. Let me tell you something that will surprise you. 391 million barrels landed in the USA alone. When I was called then I was in the House of Reps. When we called the NNPC, it was surprising that the information they gave us, was nothing to write home about. And what did the USA give us? It was mind blogging. That this is Nigeria. And, it is so sad that we fight this corruption, and it fights back at you. That is why I am saying Mr. President is trying his best. But those in the helms of affairs that should be responsible and accountable have not done the needful. And, we call ourselves that we are Nigerians and we are the biggest in Africa. I don’t know what to say Mr Abati because you are also aware of this during your tenure. That the orgy of oil theft has eaten us up deep and it will continue to eat us deeply. The truth of the matter is that the fact remains, who are those responsible? We have different anti-corruption agencies. I will say this without fear or favour, we are a reactive nation. We are not proactive. We need to put in place preventive measures to curtail so that at the end of the day, we can solve the issue of oil theft. Yes, we cannot remove it in totality. But, we must do something about it. Because it is cancer and a problem the corruption in our dear nation. It is in every sector of our economy. There is corruption. President Buhari is not the issue and not a corrupt president. I will say this without fear or favour. He is not corrupt. But I can tell you, that former presidents and heads of state, have derailed the wheel of progress of the country from moving forward. It is painful Reuben Abati to see our country going down. The youth are suffering. No employment. Things are getting worse. Nothing is working because somebody wants to derail the wheel and the progress of Mr President’s agenda. You are not only derailing Mr. President but the will of all Nigerians. Those cabals know themselves. I am only saying this, whether you change the name or not. It is not the issue. The issue is to commit. The will and the tenacity to say look, let us put Nigeria forward. Something good can come out of Nigeria. I believed in that notion but it requires the collective effort f very patriotic Nigerians to put Nigeria first. We cannot do it alone. President Buhari cannot fight the menace of corruption alone. All of us collectively can do just that. Nigeria will come out to be the best.
Will the enforcement of the 30-day warning strikes be tenable by the PENGASSAN?
Well, we have to thank them for their commitment as well. Seriously Nigeria’s issue is so peculiar that we don’t even know where to start. Look at all the refineries. Is there anyone working? Budgets are being made. Year in and out. What has happened to our dear nation? When you fight corruption, you get what? As President Buhari said, if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us. And, I pray that corruption does not kill. When you throw one finger at the other, one is pointing at you. Well, that is even four pointing at you. I will say that if they want to call for 30 days, is that the real issue? Will that solve the problems in 30 days? No. The issue that has started over the years graduated. When you plant a tree, and when you allow it to grow, it is now rooted. To uproot it will now be difficult. But it is growing you can remove it without any hindrance or problem. Now, corruption has eaten us in every sector. I will appeal to them, look, the best thing they will have to do is that all of us, that are in various enforcement agencies, anti-corruption agencies, we should stand and rise to do the needful. Just look at the recent adulterated fuel that came into the country. Who was held responsible? Who was held accountable, nobody? When Nigerians have suffered, businessmen and women. Vehicles and generators were destroyed. But somebody needs to be held responsible. Someone must be held accountable for any action or every action that is willing to pull Nigeria out as a leading nation.
You said we should not blame President Buhari for all these challenges and he is the leader of the country, but what are the solutions?
We should blame every one of us including you and me. All of us see a crime being committed and refusing to report the scene of that crime to the nearest law enforcement agencies, are as guilty as the man or woman who commits the crime. So, we are all responsible. We have not been able to tell the way it is. I am saying the truth must be put on the table. The crude oil theft didn’t start today. It has been ongoing. The solutions are very clear. If there is a crime and somebody is caught, that person should go for it. He should be made to face the wrath of the law. We have a lot of laws. Look at the other day, I was watching the accountant general of the federation. When he has stolen billions. He goes to the court with ‘babriga’ smiling. The solution is this; it is for us all the various anti-corruption agencies, the judiciary should rise and face the challenge. And if anyone found wanting, should be made to face the wrath of the law. And they must be made to face the consequences. They must be made to face jail terms. I tell you all this nonsense will stop.
Are you saying these unnamed cabals are more powerful than the president or are you saying President Buhari cannot bring them to book?
In the United States of America, there is what is called investigative journalism. It is not able always seating in your studio. You must go out there and investigate. Watch CNN. When they take on the issue, they do a proper investigation. Not just only hearsay. So, that you have your facts and figures. It is going to require the collective efforts of everyone. But I am happy Arise Television is rising to that occasion. And, I am proud to have you in partnership with what is happening in Nigeria. Because that is why I said it is going to take the collective efforts of every Nigerian. Seeing a crime being committed and reports g the scene of the crime is very important. The president has appointed all of us in different capacities. Some are doing very well and some are doing just nothing. So, if we support Mr. President, he cannot be in Abuja, Sokoto, Lagos, and Benin at the same time. But, we that are being appointed, should be seen doing our jobs. And doing it certainly and beyond all reasonable doubt. We are here to serve and we must serve the country. Not just serving the president but the country. Serve Nigerians. Let us serve our people. I am weeping because this issue is beyond you and me. It has eaten us deeply over the years. The motion that I move in 2026 or there about up to 2017 and 2018, the problem of crude oil theft is still ongoing. What do they do? They are blaming and saying the bunkering is the problem. Yet there is bunkering. The major oil theft is the one taken through the backdoor. Listen to me. This is 41 countries being investigated where different countries billions of dollars go to voicemail. In the crude oil theft that Land in America purchased, the seller and the buyer, are both guilty as charged. Monies were paid to three banks. Chase Bank in America. Is that money meant for you and me? Has Nigeria gotten that money? So, we know the problem. They cannot continue to tell us there is bunkering here and there. Why can’t they talk about the one going through the backdoor? The major ones. The ones you see today are the young men and women yet they should be prosecuted. And those who have taken the crude oil through the back door. The IOC with their connivance of our Nigerians people should be prosecuted. It takes two to tango. We are planning one certain individual. We are pointing fingers despite we have 32 state governors. But, we keep on blaming the center. But, if all of us come together, the governors, president, the local governments, the senators and reps, all of the above, house of assembly, we come together to fight this menace, to fight this corruption then we will find a solution to it. Without doing that it will be a mockery to ourselves and not to Mr. President. It is not Mr. President’s issue, my own but your issue and all Nigerian’s issue. And, it is our problem and we must solve it. It is cancer that has eaten us so deeply. Corruption is the major problem. It is in every sector not only in NNPC. It is across the board. What are we talking about? We are talking about the crude oil; issue of contaminated fuel that was imported into this country. Have we heard anybody that is held responsible? They are blaming innocent people. Those who have nothing to do with it. Those are the ones they are parading. They know the people who did it. We know them. What have they done to them? So, enough is enough. It is not about talking and talking. I want a solution myself. Instead of doing the right thing, when they come they kill all the cases. Who do you now blame? One man. How can you blame one because he is the president? The problem of Nigeria is all of us. We should rise and face the truth. Mr. President is not on trial.
The management of the NNPC recently said that churches and mosques are all involved in this crude oil theft, do you think the problem is political?
If you are talking of political will I think we do have it? In any problem, there are solutions. We just have to be able to ascertain it. We know we have such a problem at hand. If the GMD of NNPC thinks that churches and mosques are involved in the oil bunkering. It is not just saying it. He must be able to identify those that are responsible and bring them to account. Those who have committed that offense. Even though the book itself is not available. In my code of conduct bureau, we do have the book. Anyone found wanting should be prosecuted. I don’t just want us to lay the blame, but we should be able to identify the people who are derailing the wheel of progress or moving the country forward. If any pastor or Imam is found to be involved in crude oil theft, they should be apprehended. Like I keep on saying most especially on the issue of the contaminated oil that came into the country, till tomorrow, nobody has been held responsible. When Nigerians have lost billions. Businesses are paying the price for it. Nigerians are paying the price for it. So, the solution remains, we have laws and our constitutions. That is a total guide. We have ICPC, EFCC, Code of Conduct Bureau, and the police, and guess what, they are doing their best. The more you fight corruption, the more corruption fights back at you. So, if you are talking about moving forward, let us put this on the table and agree on the way forward on how to curtail this menace. It can be resolved by having the willingness that is the commitment, to put this country one of the best nations in the world. It is possible and it is achievable. But, to keep on having a blame game, will not take us anywhere. What am saying is that we have laws, and we refused to obey them. When you go about to engage in illegal activities, in oil bunkering, you are arrested, I want to see a situation where they are prosecuted and jailed. When people steal N10, 000, they are in prison and those who stole N1m are in prison, but those who are stealing billions are working free and, wearing ‘babariga’ and going to court smiling like they are heroes. Because they have stolen so much. If we now have, consequences, like when you are arrested, or caught, you will face the wrath of the law and face jail. There must be repercussions. For every offense committed, when there are no consequences, what do you expect? So, it will be free for all. We must abide by the rule of law. Because if not, all this we are saying, having 30 days’ notice or 20 days, will not solve the problem.