Risqua Murtala Mohammed, the son of former military Head of State, Murtala Mohammed, and an oil marketer, knows of no abuses or corruption in Nigeria’s oil sector, and on Thursday, he brought that to the attention of federal lawmakers.
Testifying at the ongoing House of Representatives hearing on the management of fuel subsidy, Mr. Mohammed portrayed the image of one strange to the loud tales of rot in the petroleum industry, and he passed that feeling on with an air of an industry authority.
“I need to correct this impression, there are no sharp practices in the industry as people keep saying,” he told the lawmakers.
But when pressed to be categorical, he adjusted that to imply that he has heard of some, but never came across any in his years of experience in practice.
“We have heard about it; but we’ve never seen it. Seeing is believing.”
Mr. Mohammed, middle-aged, heads AMG Petroleum, a group with a staff of 50 and share capital of N50 million and credit line of 600 million US dollars.
The import and export company , with offices in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Calabar, has been one of the beneficiaries of the subsidy since 2006. Currently, the unpaid subsidy claim of the company is N1.8 billion.
But he said he needed to make it clear his company was different, and doing legitimate business that has a profit margin of only about 50 kobo or N1 per liter of imported fuel.
“Subsidy is not a gift as people think. We use our money to import and the government only reimburses us. The profit is very small and sometimes there is no profit and other times we even pay the government subsidy.”
Before the Farouk Lawan-chaired committee, he exuded a self-assurance that brought back memories of his late disciplinarian father. He said there were three corrections he will like to make. First, not all oil companies without a depot are brief case companies; second, subsidy was not a gift and third, he “ never came across sharp practices in the industry.”
“We are a very serious company,” he announced.
But under cross-examination, the confidence carefully gave way to jitter, when asked why he claimed to be a full-time importer of oil whereas most of his products arrive from neighbouring countries’ ports.
The practice is common with many claimants of subsidy who pretend to import petroleum products from Europe, when they are actually scooping from mother vessels berthed at Lome, and other nearby ports. Still, they claim same charge as those from Europe.
Mr. Mohammed repeatedly tried to provide an answer, but each time left the lawmakers itchy for more questions until chairman, Farouk Lawan intervened and let him off.