Oil proceeds went into personal accounts, Nigerian president says

Thu Dec 31, 2015 7:00am GMT

By Alexis Akwagyiram

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigerian authorities have seen documents suggesting the proceeds from past crude oil sales were diverted to personal accounts rather than reaching government coffers, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a wide-ranging interview on Wednesday.

Africa's biggest economy faces its worst economic crisis in years, since it relies on oil exports for about 58 percent of government revenue. The sharp fall in oil prices over the past year has hit those revenues hard.

This problem has been exacerbated by the long-standing mismanagement of oil revenue. Buhari has previously said treasury coffers were virtually empty when he took office in May and that "mind-boggling" sums of money had been stolen.

The 73-year-old former military ruler, who won April elections after campaigning on an anti-corruption ticket, outlined progress made by his government in a two-hour "media chat" with three journalists broadcast live on state television.

"We have some documents where Nigerian crude oil was lifted illegally and the proceeds were put into some personal accounts instead of the federal government accounts," said Buhari.

The president said stolen money had already been recovered by the government. He did not disclose the sums involved and said he could not provide more details because various cases were being taken to court.

A former oil minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, is under investigation as part of a crackdown on corruption in the oil industry. She has denied any wrongdoing. Buhari's latest comments suggested other officials might also be named.

A 2013 investigation by former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi raised questions about the alleged disappearance of about $20 billion in oil revenues.   Continued...

President Muhammadu Buhari addresses members of the National Working Committee during the meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party at the headquarters of the party in Abuja, Nigeria July 3, 2015.  REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
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