Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede
By Muhammad Bello in Abuja
It was by no means a respite for some oil marketers as the subsidy review committee chaired by Access Bank Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede submitted its interim report to President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday, still indicting most marketers.
The committee was set up by the president to verify and reconcile the findings of the Technical Committee on Payment of Fuel Subsidies (also chaired by Aig-Imoukhuede) established by the Federal Ministry of Finance to conduct a detailed review of all subsidy claims and payments made in 2011.
The essence of the committee was apparently to give marketers indicted in the first report an opportunity to provide documentary evidence to clarify the findings of the technical committee, given that most of them had complained they were not given a hearing.
Some major oil marketers comprising Oando Plc, Forte Oil Plc, Total Nigeria Plc and MRS Plc, among scores of other independent oil marketers and importers of petrol, were named in the report of Aig-Imoukhuede’s verification committee as having committed multiple infractions in the fuel subsidy scheme.
The infringements – 17 in all – were said to have cost the nation N422,542,937,668.59 in overpayments.
Speaking on why the committee’s report was considered interim, Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Dr. Reuben Abati, said the committee “wanted more time to tidy up certain aspect of their work before they will bring the full report.” He couldn’t however say how long it would be before the committee submits the final report.
Although the submission was not made publicly, a Presidency source told THISDAY that most of the marketers did not deny their complicity in the subsidy fraud. “Some were literally crying; that they simply took advantage of loopholes in the system. So they couldn’t provide any evidence to the contrary,” the source explained.
In the course of carrying its mandate, the committee was said to have set up four panels where indicted marketers had appeared to clarify the findings of the technical committee. The source added that the findings had shocked the president and that he is “dead serious” about prosecuting the marketers. “He has got law enforcement agencies to get the data base of all these marketers, and has also asked the SSS to go to the Corporate Affairs commission and unmask the directors of these companies. The president urged them to take note of those that may pose a flight risk and directed that the Interpol be contacted to be on the lookout,” the source added.
THISDAY learnt that the 15-member committee had been assisted by CBN officials, SSS, director of public prosecution from the justice ministry and the Serious Fraud Office of the Nigeria Police Force.
Jonathan last week inaugurated the committee and gave it a timeline that lapsed on Friday to submit its report. The terms of reference of the committee were: to further verify and reconcile all claims made in the report of the Technical Committee on Fuel Subsidy Payments; and to properly identify all cases of overpayment and/or irregular payment.
Others were to: accurately identify all likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation and review any other pertinent issues that may arise from its work and make appropriate recommendations.
Details of the 17 infractions, which had been reported exclusively by THISDAY, were contained in the report of the verification committee.
Independent oil marketing companies mentioned in the report include Capital Oil & Gas, NIPCO Plc, SPOG Petrochemical Limited, Sahara Energy Limited, Masters Energy, Honeywell Oil & Gas, Rahamaniyya Oil & Gas, Atieo Energy Resources Limited, Eterna Plc, Obat Oil & Petrol Limited and Folawiyo Oil Limited, among others.