The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been mandated to begin the immediate probe of fuel subsidy payments made to oil marketers in the country.
Although the EFCC is legally required to act only after a petition is presented, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Deiziani Alison-Madueke, says the commission is expected to immediately review and investigate all payments made in respect of subsidies against actual importations
In a letter sent to the EFCC dated January 12, 2012, the petroleum minister said she had obtained the permission of the president to ask the EFCC to launch a probe of subsidy payments.
“To now deepen my reforms and ensure that we root out all forms of corruption and abuse within the subsidy regime, I have sought and obtained the approval of President Goodluck Jonathan to formally invite the EFCC to immediately review and investigate all payments made in respect of subsidies checked against actual importations and to take all necessary steps to prosecute any person(s) involved in any incidence of malfeasance, fraud, overpayments and related illegalities,” she said.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s action is coming shortly after many days of chaos and protests across the country over the deregulation of the downstream sector which saw to the immediately hike in fuel process. Protesters across the country condemned the January 1 withdrawal of subsidy on fuel and demanded for not just the restoration of previous fuel prices but for transparency and accountability in the oil sector and for extensive reforms in the government.
Ibrahim Larmode, the acting chairman of EFCC was not reachable to confirm if the commission would act on the letter immediately. Mr. Lamorde has just recently been made the head of the anti-graft agency which is generally perceived to be unproductive. The official website of the EFCC was recently hacked by a group protesting its alleged indifference to corruption in the oil industry.
The invitation of EFCC for the investigation is coming ahead of the release of another investigative report carried out by the senate after Bukola Saraki (PDP Kwara state) raised an alarm over the staggering over expenditure on the system for 2011.
The senate investigation panel was met with scanty and dodgy officials of the petroleum ministry and Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) but Mrs. Alison-Madueke has said that she has ordered all staff of both the NNPC and the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to cooperate with EFCC in this new round of investigations.
The minister also announced in her letter that she has set up a unit in the petroleum ministry to review audit reports on the largely opaque NNPC and other parastatals.
The KPMG report, uncovered by Premium Times, contains damning information of entrenched corruption in the management of the nation’s oil industry by the NNPC.
The finance ministry ordered the KPMG audit after it discovered that despite the increase in international oil prices and Nigeria’s export volumes, there was no commensurate improvement in the country’s external reserves position. This call for the audit was further aggravated by allegations of unauthorized changes made in the management of the foreign bank accounts used for the receipt of the nation’s crude oil and gas sales proceeds by the NNPC.
“Furthermore, there are concerns that the procedures for managing and reporting the country’s crude oil and gas revenues are opaque and characterised by gaps, overlaps and inconsistencies in the role of key parties responsible for the assessment, collection and reporting on these revenue streams,” the audit report in possession of Premium Times said.
The audit report has been held back by government officials since it was released in November 2010 with the current finance minister, Ngozi Okojo-Iweala, stalled when members of the senate investigating panel demanded to have a peek into the report. But Premium Times scooped the report and made it available for the public.