Five oil companies have been linked with the $153million seized from former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, The Nation reports.
The chief executives of the oil firms are believed to have gone underground to evade arrest, prompting investigators to believe that they may have opted to forfeit the cash.
But the source of the cash sparked a row last night following claims by a suspect that the $153million was sourced by the former minister from the five oil firms and not the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The suspect said the $153million was another tranche of funds mobilised under the table by Mrs Alison-Madueke from oil companies for the re-election of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
The board of NNPC is likely to meet in Abuja to get “a full briefing” on the cash scandal.
Justice Muslim Hassan of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on January 6 ordered the seizure of the cash which, according to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was stolen from the NNPC’s accounts and stashed in some banks.
The oil companies whose identities remain unknown “so as not to jeopardise the investigation were allegedly involved in how the funds were wired in exchange for some concessions.
“It is however indisputable that the oil companies collaborated with Diezani and acted on her instructions to haul the cash to one of the banks which distributed it to others,” a source close to the investigation said.
“EFCC detectives have succeeded in cracking how the funds were channeled and distributed.
“Detectives are on the trail of the chief executives of the five companies. One of them was allegedly traced to London and we are expecting his arrest anytime from now. The EFCC and UK authorities have closed in on one of the oil chiefs in London,” the source said, pleading not to be named because he is not permitted to talk to the media.
On the source of the $153million, one of the suspects said came from the oil firms’ chiefs and not the NNPC accounts.
Another source said: “The suspect said only the oil chiefs could explain where they got the $153million.
“The suspect insisted that the cash was not from NNPC’s accounts. The suspect said this was why the ex-minister had the audacity to raise some posers for EFCC on the cash.
“But irrespective of the source, the EFCC had uncovered the slush funds and none of the oil firms’ chiefs has come out to claim it. They are even distancing themselves from the money. They prefer to forfeit the money than being brought to justice.”
Mrs Alison-Madueke last Saturday faulted EFCC’s findings that the $153million was stolen from NNPC’s account(s).
In a statement from London, she said: “In the face of the obvious falsification of facts and misinformation, it is only right and proper that the EFCC should publish the details of the $153.3million lodgments, the bank account numbers and the account beneficiaries, showing proof of my link to them.
“Having also alleged that the said $153.3million was ‘wired’ from NNPC, the EFCC should also publish details of the NNPC accounts from where the said $153.3 million was taken from, with proof that I authorised such a transaction/transactions acting either in my private capacity or, as The Honourable Minister of Petroleum.
“Let me state for the record that as Minister of Petroleum, the operation and management of NNPC finances were outside my purview as outlined in both the Petroleum Act and the NNPC Act.
“The only involvement I had in NNPC finances was in terms of statutory matters, where the Petroleum Act prescribed that as minister, there were certain duties or actions which I had to perform or take in relation to NNPC.”