Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Panel indicts 21 firms over fuel subsidy, seeks refund of N382b

EFCC set to arraign 12 firms, seven persons
THE reports of mismanagement of fuel subsidy funds, which have loudly advertised the sleaze in the oil industry, will face their legal test today as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) lines up some individuals and companies for trial. This is coming just as the findings of a presidential panel submitted yesterday have further strengthened a case of corruption against bigwigs in the sector.
The EFCC will today arraign the first batch of those who unduly benefited from the subsidy. Those to be arraigned today, according to the EFCC, include 12 companies and seven individuals.
President Goodluck Jonathan received the report of the Presidential Committee on Verification & Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy Payments.
In the report, the committee recommended the indictment of 21 Oil Marketing and Trading (OM&T) companies. The panel also recommended that a total of N382 billion be recovered from the indicted firms.
Those  to  be arraigned by the EFCC
1. Mamman Nasir Ali
2. Christian  Taylor
3. Mahmud  Tukur
4. Ochonogor Alex
5. Walter Wagbatsoma
6. Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi
7. Fakuade  Babafemi Ebenezer
8. Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele
9. Abubakar Ali Peters
10. Jude Agube Abalaka
11. Abdulahi Alao
12. Oluwaseun Ogunbanbo
1. Nasaman Oil Services
2. Eternal Oil  and Gas Plc
3. Ontario Oil and Gas Plc
4. Nadabo Energy Limited
5. Pacific Silver Line Limited
6. Axenergy Limited
7. Fago Petroleum and Gas Limited
The Chairman of the committee and Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede, told journalists after the presentation of the report to President Goodluck Jonathan that the report of the presidential committee was aimed at fine-tuning and playing a complementary role to the report of the EFCC and that of the House of Representatives subsidy report.
Aig-Imokhuede said that while a total of 116 oil marketing and trading companies that participated in the petroleum subsidy scheme were invited for interviews, 107 honoured the invitation.
The chairman, who briefed the press alongside the Attorney- General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke and Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Dr. Reuben Abati, said that the ultimate solution to the abuse of the subsidy regime was total deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector.
According to Aig-Imokhuede: “Out of the N422 billion identified by the Technical Committee which I chaired, the Presidential Committee took steps to identify and remove duplication, which may have been contained in the Technical Committee’s report which was also discovered in the course of the panel’s interviews. Of the N422 billion, N18 billion was found to be duplication. So, the actual amount that was being verified was N403 billion. Of this amount, N21 billion was cleared. That leaves N382 billion as the sum in contention for which the committee recommended that the process of recovery should be made. Painstaking efforts were made to ensure fairness, OM&Ts were given the opportunity to come back with as much documentation and even be re-interviewed where necessary. We have six categories of issues, likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation-you have 21 OM&Ts affected. We have short-time certificate issues, you have as number of OMT involved in irregular payments and so on.”
Among the 22 recommendations of the committee were:
• Recovery of the said amount;
• possible criminal investigation and prosecution of the OMTs that are found to have engaged in likely fraudulent issues; and
• external auditors and any government functionaries who served will be further interviewed to determine their roles if any in the issues that were discussed.

Aig-Imokhuede added: “We also recognise the need for the accelerated implementation of all the recommendations in the Technical Committee report. It is important to note that the fuel subsidy scheme involved the sourcing, importation and distribution of petroleum and other related products within Nigeria. And based on the fact that you have a subsidy regime, the claiming of subsidies by those who import these products. I think Mr. President has demonstrated unique wisdom in constituting very strong technocrats in the Presidential Committee. The reality is, without the type of experience you see in some of the ladies and gentlemen that are here 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. 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.”
“We believe that at this juncture and based on the recommendations of the committee, Nigerians will begin to see the Federal Government take the action that is visible having gone through the invisible hard work of putting together the cases against those who may have misbehaved in the fuel subsidy programme. Finally, our recommendation is that for the nation to keep putting together teams of technocrats to pursue those who abuse a subsidy regime is not sustainable. The lasting and final solution to ensure that this kind of things does not occur again is for the deregulation of fuel subsidy.”
Adoke added: “The entire objective is that the government is not just interested in prosecuting those that are engaged in impunity for violating the process but also recovering the money. And will need technocrats to help us identify the exact amount of money because with the prosecution, the society itself must benefit by having a restitution. We are going to recover this money and we are going to set the process for recovery alongside the prosecution.”
On how the recovery is going to be effected, Aig-Imokhuede stated that “there are number of options. 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. There are other powers that the Federal Government has with respect to transactions that are ongoing and claims that such people may have for additional fuel subsidies. That is another source of recovery. We have also looked at one or two interesting enabling laws that allow the Federal Government to take certain steps we will not mention now.”
Asked if it is possible to recover all the N382 billion, he stated: “It will be na├»ve to say that we can recover the whole amount. 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.“
The committee, inaugurated on July 5 by President Jonathan, had the following terms of reference:
• To further verify and reconcile all claims made in the report of the Technical Committee on Fuel Subsidy Payments;
• To properly identify all cases of overpayment and/or irregular payment;
• To accurately identify all likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation; and
• To review any other pertinent issues that may arise from its work and make appropriate recommendations.
Meanwhile, the EFCC said yesterday that it would charge already detained directors of seven oil-marketing companies at the Lagos High Court for their alleged complicity in the petrol subsidy fraud.
A statement from the EFCC’s Media and Publicity Unit, signed by Wilson Uwujaren yesterday named the seven companies involved to include Nasaman Oil Services; Eternal Oil and Gas Plc; Ontario Oil and Gas Plc; Nadabo Energy Limited; Pacific Silver Line Limited; Axenergy Limited and Fago Petroleum and Gas Limited.
The 12 individuals involved in the scam are: Mamman Nasir Ali; Christian Taylor; Mahmud Tukur; Ochonogor Alex; Walter Wagbatsoma; Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi; Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer; Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele; Abubakar Ali Peters; Jude Agube Abalaka, Abdulahi Alao and Oluwaseun Ogunbanbo.
The commission noted that Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele is director of the accounting firm, Akintola Williams Deloitte while Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer is an official of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulating Agency (PPPRA).
The agency stated that Nasaman Oil Services, Mamman Nasir and Christian Taylor are to face charges bordering on obtaining N4, 460, 130, 797. 94 from the Federal Government of Nigeria under false pretence.
The sum is alleged to have been fraudulently obtained as subsidy payments from the Petroleum Support Fund for the purported importation of 30.5 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit from SEATAC Petroleum Limited of British Virgin Islands.
The anti-graft agency also said that it would equally prosecute Abdulahi Alao and Axenergy Limited for allegedly obtaining N2, 640, 141, 707.75 being payments received from the Petroleum Support Fund for the purported importation of 33.3 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
Others include Mahmud Tukur, Ochonogor Alex; Abdulahi Alao and Eternal Oil And Gas Plc who will be docked for fraudulently obtaining N1, 899, 238, 946. 02 from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 80.3million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
Also, Nadabo Energy Limited, Abubakar Ali Peters, Jude Agube Abalaka and Pacific Silver Line Limited are to be prosecuted for allegedly obtaining N1, 464, 961, 978.24, being payments fraudulently received from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 19.4million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo –Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer, Ezekiel   Olaleye Ejidele and Ontario Oil & Gas Nigeria Limited will be arraigned for fraudulently obtaining N1, 959, 377, 542 .63 from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 39.2 litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
Lastly, Fago Petroleum and Gas Limited and Oluwaseun Ogunbanbo are to be docked for fraudulently obtaining N979,653,110.20  from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 33, 627, 84 litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a Benin-based Non-Governmental Organisation, yesterday commended EFCC for the planned arraignment of the oil marketers.

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