Nigerian panel indicts 21 firms in N382b subsidy scams


The Aig- Aigboke Imokhuede led Presidential Committee on Verification and Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy payment on Tuesday submitted its final report to President Goodluck Jonathan. In the report, the Committee indicted 21 oil marketing companies for fraudulent claims of petroleum subsidy.

It also asked the government to initiate a process that will lead to the recovery of the sum of N383 billion received as fraudulent payment by the marketers as well as criminal prosecution of their directors.

It will be recalled that the federal government Technical Committee which looked into fuel subsidy management from 2010-2011 also headed by Imokhuede had earlier indicated that about N422 billion were received fraudulently by marketers as subsidy payments. The technical committee also indicted 88 oil marketers which it accused of benefiting from the fraudulent payments.

In the final report, the committee made 22 recommendations which include the recovery of the illegal payment of N382 billion.

However, most of the indicted marketers had protested conclusions reached in the report, with many accusing the Technical Committee of doing a shoddy job. They specifically accused the committee of not inviting them to or seeking necessary documents from them before it reached its conclusions.

As a result of the uproar generated by the report of the Technical Committee, the President on July 5 constituted the Presidential Committee on Verification and Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy payment made between 2009 and 2011 also headed by Imoukhuede to tie up the loose end in the investigations.

While briefing State House reporters in company of Reuben Abati, spokesperson for the President, Mohammed Adoke, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Imokhuede noted that 116 oil marketing and trading firms, OM&T participated in fuel subsidy regime in the period covered by the investigation.

He added that all the companies were invited for interview by the Committee, but only 107 of them honoured the invitations and they were interviewed by the different panels of the Committee.

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Imokhuede said the Committee made painstaking efforts to ensure fairness as the marketing firms were allowed to go and come back with documents as much as necessary. He identified the different infractions committed by the companies to include irregular payments and short-time certificate issues among others.

Imokhuede told State House reporters that the N382billion was part of the contentious N422 billion identified by the Technical Committee as overpayment to marketers.

According to him, N18billion out of the N422 billion turned out to be duplication, which led to reduction in the actual amount to N403 billion. He added that the Commitee was able to verify N21 billion out of the N403 billion as genuine payment, leaving the sum of N382 billion.

“Also, external auditors or any other who served will be further interviewed to determine the roles if any in the issues that were discussed We also recognise the need for the accelerated implementation of all the recommendations in the Technical Committee report”, Imokhuede added.

While noting that it will be naive to expect the recovery of all the N382 billion, Imokhuede said the important thing is for government to ensure that it did its best to recover as much as possible of the funds.

“The reality is without the type of experience you see in some of the ladies and gentlemen that are here drawn from the CBN, Attorney General’s office, SSS, banks and so on, it will be quite difficult and challenging for a layman to even understand how these issues arose and to even put up a case that will be successful in the court of law. It is better to do your homework thoroughly before you take action as opposed to rush and take action and then be embarrassed in court because you didn’t do your homework”, he said in response to the question of the time it had taken the Committee to conclude its work.

“We believe that at this juncture and based on the recommendations of the committee, Nigerians will begin to see the Federal Government take the action that is visible having gone through the invisible hard work of putting together the cases against those who may have misbehaved in the fuel subsidy programme.
Imokhuede said the lasting and final solution against abuse of subsidy is deregulation of oil sector.”

While assuring that there is no conflict between the work of the Committee and the investigations been done on subsidy payments by EFCC, Adoke noted that the report of the Presidential Committee is meant to fine-tune what the EFCC is doing: “It is complimentary of the EFCC report as well as that of the House of Representatives. The entire objective is that the government is not just interested in prosecuting those that are engaged in impunity for violating the process but also recovering the money and will need technocrats to help us identify the exact amount of money because with the prosecution, the society itself must benefit by having a restitution. We are going to recover this money and we are going to set the process for recovery alongside the prosecution.”

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