Fuel subsidy scam: Presidential committee indicts 21 firms, urges recovery of N382 billion

Twenty-one oil firms made fraudulent claims for petrol subsidy and have been indicted by the Presidential Committee set up on the 2011 fuel subsidy scheme. The firms have also been asked to refund N382 billion wrongly collected as subsidy in 2011.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, the Chairman of the committee stated this while addressing journalists after submitting the final report to President Goodluck Jonathan.

The committee was set up by Mr. Jonathan to review the report of a technical committee set up by the Ministry of Finance to probe the 2011 subsidy payments. The technical committee was also headed by Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede.

Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede, who is also the Group Managing Director of Access Bank, explained that the review committee made some corrections in the technical committee’s report: while the technical committee asked the indicted firms to refund N422 billion, the review committee asked them to refund N382 billion.

He said the difference in refunds was due to a duplication of N18 billion in the earlier report, while some firms were also cleared of N21 billion.

Nine firms ignored us

The Access Bank boss explained that some of the 116 oil firms involved in petrol import in 2006 ignored the committee’s invitation.

“The Presidential Committee invited all 116 (companies) for interviews. 107 OM&T (oil marketing and trading companies) honoured invitation,” Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede said. “They were interviewed by various panels constituted by the committee, and the outcome of these interviews are also captured in the report.”

Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede explained that the final report of his committee categorized the wrongdoings of the oil firms into six.

“Likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation, you have 21 OM&T affected. We have short-time certificate issues, we have as number of OM &T involved in irregular payments, and so on,” he said.

The committee chairman also explained that the report asked for further investigation of external auditors and government functionaries who played roles in the subsidy scheme. 

Snipe at the House Committee

In what appears to be a snipe at the House of Representatives Committee which also probed the fuel subsidy scheme, Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede described his committee as one made up of technocrats, who have done a thorough job.

“Without the type of experience you see in some of the ladies and gentlemen 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,” he said.

“It has taken time, 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.”

Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede explained that for such issues as the subsidy scam not to occur again, his committee recommended the complete deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector.

Report complements House committee’s

Mohammed Adoke, the Attorney General of the Federation, who joined Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede in addressing the press, explained that the committee was not meant to discountenance the work done by the House of Representatives.

“It (the review committee report) is complimentary of the EFCC report as well as that of the House of Representatives.” He said.

The AGF explained that the government was not only interested in prosecuting the culprits, but also in recovering the funds. He said the government had several methods it could use to recover the funds.

“The first is to determine whether you have some of the subsidy payments due still within the banking system in the possession of those who illegally collected them,” Mr. Adoke stated. “We have also looked at one or two interesting enabling laws that allow the federal government take certain steps we will not mention now.”

Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede however warned that Nigerians should not expect the entire illegally received subsidy to be refunded.

“It will be naïve that we can recover the whole amount,” he said. “The most important thing is that the State diligently pursues recovery to its logical conclusion. At the end of the day having exhausted all means at its disposal, I think the people of Nigeria will know that justice has been done.”

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