Presidential committee says 21 firms stole N382 billion subsidy money

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, the Chairman of the
Presidential Committee set up on the 2011 fuel
subsidy scheme disclosed this while addressing
journalists after submitting the final report to
President Goodluck Jonathan.
“The first (step) is the recovery of the N382
billion,” Mr Imokhuede said.
The probe commissioned by Mr Jonathan is the
latest in a string of investigations into fuel
subsidy scheme that is rife with corruption and a
massive drain on the country’s finances.
“The next is possible criminal investigation and
prosecution of the OMT (oil marketing and
trading companies) … also, the external auditors
and any government functionaries who served
will be further interviewed to determine the
roles if any in the issues that were discussed.”
Mr Imokhuede did not name specific companies
but some of the world’s largest oil traders
import petrol into the country, along with
marketers owned by some of the richest and
most powerful Nigerians.
Nigeria is among the top 10 crude oil exporters
in the world but due to decades of corruption
and mismanagement it has to import most of its
refined fuel needs.
The Federal Government scrapped payment of
fuel subsidy on January 1, potentially saving the
country over $6 billion. But more than a week of
strikes and protests erupted across the country
against the higher cost of fuel, forcing the
government to partially reinstate subsidy
The first probe
Following the protest against the removal of fuel
subsidy, the House of Representatives
constituted an ad-hoc committee chaired by
Farouk Lawan to probe the the scheme earlier
this year.
Mr Lawn’s committee uncovered fraudulent
payments over three years of about N1.7 trillion.
But now his committee’s report is being called
into question over allegations that Mr Lawan
demanded, and took part of, a $3 million bribe
from the Chairman of Zenon oil and Gas, Femi
Otedola in order to remove his company from
the list of fraudsters.
Mr Lawan’s lawyer said the lawmaker took
$500,000 offered to him by Mr Otedola, but only
in order to expose him, saying he disclosed the
bribe to the Chairman of the House committee
on Drugs/Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Adams
Jagaba and handed the cash to him.
Mr Lawan’s report not only highlighted the oil
marketers’ crimes but also pointed the finger at
high level politicians, including Oil Minister
Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Mr Imokhuede’s committee has focused on oil
companies rather than government officials.
Another fuel scarcity looms
The Ministry of Finance has held off subsidy
payments until probes into marketers have been
completed, prompting anger from importers and
risking fuel shortages.
The Fuel union Jetty and Petroleum Tank Farm
Owners of Nigeria (JEPTFON) is shutting down
fuel distribution facilities this week and another
labour group, the Depot and Petroleum
Marketers Association (DAPPMA), threatened to
join them within 48 hours if government did not
pay outstanding subsidies.
The subsidy is stretching Nigeria’s finances and
draining oil savings. The Minister of State for
Finance, Yerima Lawan Ngama said in June that
only had N370 billion is left to pay subsidies, out
of the N888 billion in the 2012 budget.
The Central Bank has said the subsidy budget
will run out well before the end of the year,
which means they will need to raid savings to
pay for it.
State governors under the aegis of Nigeria
Governors Forum have said they will take the
federal government to court for what they call
“illegal” over-budget subsidy payments.

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