The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it is set to move to take over the investigation of lost oil funds once the forensic auditing of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is completed.
The EFCC Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Lamorde said on Thursday that it the anti-gratf agency was waiting for the forensic audit of the NNPC accounts, before it can commence investigation into the alleged unremitted funds.
Speaking in Abuja on Thursday at the commission’s 2014 budget defence before the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Lamorde said: “When this controversy started we had about three figures. Now we have settled more or less on 20 billion dollars.
“The minister of finance said that they want to commission an audit firm to do a forensic auditing of the finances of the NNPC.
“You need a professional firm to handle this. This is not a common investigation. These are very technical things.
“Let the audit be carried out. Let’s know exactly what we are talking about, understand what the figures are and criminal investigation can follow.
“You can’t start an investigation on nothing. You can’t put a super structure without a base. So, we need that base to put our own investigation on it,” he said.
According to the EFCC chairman, investigations into the financial position of the NNPC were technical and required experts to conduct a comprehensive audit to unveil its true financial position, adding that the outcome of the forensic audit of NNPC would provide the EFCC with the materials to conduct criminal investigation into the accounts of the corporation.
Lamorde told the committee that the anti-graft agency secured 117 convictions in 2013 and that it had already secured 30 convictions within the last two months but that the commission looked forward to securing not less than 150 convictions for financial crime offenders at the end of 2014.
He said: “Law enforcement investigation is supposed to be systematic and you work toward getting evidence to sustain your case if eventually you go to court.
“You can’t just go to court based on assumptions. We have gone very far with some of our investigations. Very soon when we are ready you will see us in court,” Lamorde added.
Earlier, Lamorde said the commission had proposed a budget of N21.5 billion for 2014, but the Budget Office proposal slashed it down to N10.2 billion, adding that the EFCC needed the sum of N9 billion to enable it complete construction of its permanent headquarters in Abuja.
The Chairman of the committee, Sen. Victor Lar, said that Nigerians were disappointed by the failure of the EFCC to probe the missing oil funds.
His words: “People are sad that in spite of the existence of the EFCC, there were no early warning or signs to have given a hint that such monumental breach were afoot.
“This idea of waiting for the National Assembly to complete investigations before you swing into action is baffling.
“It is escapist and I think it is not an acceptable approach because if you swing into investigations, the questions you ask are not the same as the ones we do.
“We will appreciate the situation where your legal team will work with us. We are willing to work with the commission to see how you can execute your mandate effectively,” Lar said.
He commended the EFCC for the high number of convictions it secured at various High Courts, and urged them to work toward achieving more in 2014.