The federal government has vowed to recover subsidy overpayments to fuel marketers as the reports of the verification committee headed by the Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede continued to generate reactions from the marketers.
Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who disclosed this said the federal government would recover the excess payments made to petroleum marketers, as soon as the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede committee completes its assignment.
Okonjo-Iweala spoke after she delivered the second Prof. Barth Nnaji Lecture at the Enugu State University of Technology, Enugu Saturday.
President Goodluck Jonathan had last Thursday set up the new Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede Committee to verify and reconcile the findings of the technical committee set up by the Federal Ministry of Finance to conduct a detailed review of all subsidy claims and payments made in 2011.
The minister said the presidential committee, expected to submit its report by July 13, was to give marketers who may doubt the report of the technical committee the opportunity to prove their claims.
She said: “In terms of the subsidy, it is true that we budgeted N888 billion for the year. We have used N451 billion of that. We still have N370 billion left that we are working on. So it is not like all the money is finished and we will be working on that.
“As you know, there was a recent report to verify 2011 arrears that, with the support of Mr. President, I set up, chaired by Aig-Imoukhuede. We set it up in the Ministry of Finance and they have worked.
They used over 20 forensic accountants and bank examiners. As a result, Mr. President two days ago constituted a Presidential Task Force also chaired by Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede to try and just complete work on the verification and then begin the recovery.
“The verification is to give a chance to any of those marketers who say, ‘Oh, may be you got it wrong here or there’ to come forward. And the President has given them a very tight deadline of about a week. When we finish with that then the next stage will be for us to try and get our money back.
“We must get some of those resources back. Let’s wait for the resources to come back. I am sure Nigerians will like that and then we can take it from there”.
“President Jonathan has directed the 15-member committee headed by Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede to begin work immediately and conclude its assignment by 5.pm on Friday, July 13, 2012 as a prelude to immediate action on all identified cases of fraud.
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 by the committee as having committed multiple infractions in the fuel subsidy scheme.
Details of the 17 infractions, which are contained in the report of the verification committee.
The report also showed that despite the payment of N451 billion as 2011 subsidy arrears from the N888 billion earmarked for subsidy payments in the 2012 budget, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and private oil marketers still have outstanding claims of N384,450,487,333.99 to be paid by the Federal Government.
Independent oil marketing companies fingered 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.
The report showed that the oil marketers committed a wide range of infractions ranging from lack of evidence of sales proceeds in commercial banks, to the non-payment of a N20 million re-engagement fee for non-performance in the area of petrol importation, which should have been surcharged by the Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
The Aig-Imoukhuede committee was preceded by similar probe initiated by the House of Representative through its ad hoc committee. The committee headed by Farouk Lawan has since submitted its report with its attendant controversies.
Earlier in her lecture, the minister noted that science and technology held the key to the much- needed rapid development and therefore must be accorded a place of priority by both governments at all levels, on the one hand and the private sector on the other.
She lamented that abysmal attention that science and technology currently suffers in both sectors and therefore called for a closer collaboration between the two with a view to creating the needed opportunity that would transform research findings in the laboratories of universities and research institutes to increased industry production, in the country.
The minister also called for concerted efforts toward diversifying the nation’s economy which currently depends on only oil as its major foreign exchange earner.
Sectors that require immediate attention, according to her, include: agriculture, solid minerals, and services, among others.