Chairman of the special committee appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan to verify and reconcile the records of payments on fuel subsidy, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, owns a company that received millions of Naira in subsidy payments for products it allegedly failed to deliver.
Detailed company searches by an Abuja-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), Youth Alliance Against Fuel Subsidy Removal, revealed that Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede, who is the Group Managing Director, Access Bank Plc, also owns Ice Energy Petroleum Trading Limited, which allegedly received $2,131,166.32 in hard currency (about N345.3 million) in 2011.
It is not clear whether the company delivered the product for which it was paid but the House committee believe it did not.
The defunct Farouk Lawan-led House of Representative Committee had, in its report, queried the company for receiving payment when no petroleum products were imported and supplied.
Ice Energy was one of the 45 companies invited to appear before the probe committee, but which failed to either honour the invitation or submit documents concerning their involvement in the monumental fraud that attended the subsidy scheme.
Findings by Youth Alliance at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and made available to PREMIUM TIMES, show that Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede heads the three-man board of Ice Energy, which has Iroche Chuks, as managing director, and Aikhionbare Sam, as member.
Asking Aig-Imoukhuede to probe self and accomplices
Following the shocking revelation in the report of the House of Representatives Committee that fuel subsidy payment, for which about N245billion was appropriated in the 2011 budget, had suddenly spiralled to over N2.6 trillion (over 2,200 per cent) as at December last year, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, constituted a Technical Committee on review of Fuel Subsidy Payments, and appointed Mr. Aig-Imuokhuede as its head.
It is not clear if the ministry was aware of Mr. Aig-Imuokhuede’s involvement with Ice Energy before appointing him to the committee, which was mandated to verify, ascertain and reconcile discrepancies related to all subsidy arrears payments to petroleum products marketers.
Following the completion of the assignment, President Jonathan, apparently glossing over the indictment and complicity of Mr. Aig-Imuokhuede’s company in the fuel subsidy scandal, last Thursday re-appointed him to head another 15-man committee to further verify and reconcile all claims made in the report of the Technical Committee he led.
The president requested the new committee “to properly identify all cases of overpayments and/or irregular payments; to accurately identify all likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigations, and to review any other pertinent issues that may arise from its work and make appropriate recommendations.”
Mr. Jonathan’s decision to appoint the Access Bank’s MD to lead such an important committee, observers say, underlines the administration’s reluctance to act appropriately on the report of the House committee, which uncovered monumental fraud in the fuel subsidy regime.
When PREMIUM TIMES sought to know from the president’s spokesperson, Reuben Abati, whether the president was aware that Mr. Aig-Imokhuoede also benefited from the fuel subsidy payments he was asked to verify, his response was a question: “Are you sure?”
When our reporter answered in the affirmative, he continued, “If that is the case, the question to ask is: Is his company guilty of any wrongdoing?”
When he was asked whether that did not amount to asking the Access Bank’s managing director to probe himself over the scam, “Mr Abati said “No” pointing out that “it would only amount to asking an insider to do an inside investigation.”
Mr. Abati, who promised to get more information, and revert to our reporter, never did by the time this report was published Monday morning.
Putting faces to ‘subsidy marketers’
Youth Alliance Against Fuel Subsidy Removal said it conducted the search on the indicted companies to “put a face to the indicted companies, to let Nigerians know exactly who took their money and then formed a cabal stronger than the government.”
Before announcing the removal of subsidy on petroleum products in January this year, one of the reasons President Jonathan gave was that a few Nigerians, who had since constituted themselves into a “cabal”, were enjoying the fuel subsidy largesse.
Up till last April, when the House of Representatives Committee released its probe report, the companies and individuals that benefited from the subsidy regime were largely unknown.
But extensive searches by the youth group at the CAC appear to have exposed some of the individuals behind the crook companies as well as the make-up of the faceless ‘cabal’.
“Mr Aig-Imuokhuede is not the only government apologist who belong to this ‘cabal”, a spokesperson for the group said in a statement at the weekend.
Like Aig-Imuokhuede like General Abdulsalami Abubakar
Other beneficiaries of the subsidy scheme revealed by the searches include former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, who owns Maizube Petroleum, which was listed in the House of Representatives report as one of the 45 companies fingered by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for benefitting from the subsidy payment but failing to pay tax.
Maizube Petroleum, which was invited to appear before the probe committee, never showed up to answer questions, though it sent documents.
The report also said Maizube Petroleum should be compelled to refund the about N5.51billion it collected as subsidy for millions of litres of petroleum products it claimed to have imported but which could not be verified.
The House probe report also indicted the company for discrepancies in volume claims and dates of discharge it claimed it made between 2010 and 2011.
The former head of state, widely celebrated as one who facilitated the birth of the current democracy after he voluntarily handed over power to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, sits on the Board of Maizube Petroleum with Abubakar Isa A, and Abubakar Aminu A.
Fola Adeola too
Another member of the cabal is the running mate to Nuhu Ribadu in the 2011 presidential election under the Action Congress of Nigeria platform, Fola Adeola, who is also the co-founder of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc
Mr. Adeola, according to CAC records, sits on the board of Eterna Oil Plc, listed in the subsidy report as one of the companies indicted for tax evasion.
After details emerged that Farouk Lawan, chairman of the House Subsidy Committee, received $620,000 bribe from oil marketer Femi Otedola to clear his company, Zenon Oil, Mr. Adeola campaigned vigorously that government should set the report aside.
“If the allegation is proven, the report is contaminated. Period! We need to get to grips with this” Mr Adeola tweeted on June 12 via his Twitter handle @tfolaadeola.
Out of the 74 companies indicted in the report, only 48 were properly registered with the CAC.
Look through the document and scrutinize the directors of the companies. Email (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) to tell us what you know about them and their connections to public officials.