Ejiofor Alike in Lagos andÂ Paul Obi in Abuja
The Department of State Services (DSS) on Friday arrested the Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, over what the agency described as economic sabotage, including stealing, diversion and illegal sale of petroleum products, belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The agency has also accused Ubah of undermining the country by inciting the members of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) section of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG) to stop the lifting of petroleum products with the ulterior motive of arm-twisting the NNPC to abandon the cause of recovering the stolen products.
A spokesman of DSS, Tony Opuiyo, said in a statement yesterday that the arrest, which was sequel to Ubahâ€™s engagement in acts of economic sabotage, was in line with the statutory mandate of the agency to investigate economic crimes of national security dimension.
Following an allegation by the NNPC that Ubah sold its 82 million litres of petrol valued at over N11 billion without appropriate authorisation by the corporation, the DSS had in March asked Ubah to report daily to its headquarters, pending the conclusion of its investigation.
NNPC had also carried out its own internal investigation to ascertain the level of complicity of its staff in the illegal sale of its product and three of its top management staff who were found culpable at the end of the investigation, were compulsorily retired.
The retired officials include: Managing Director of NNPC Retail Ltd., Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue; Executive Director of Operations at NNPC Retail Ltd., Mr. Alpha Mamza; and the Manager of Distribution at NNPC Retail Ltd., Mr. Oluwa Kayode Erinoso.
Capital Oil and Gas Limited had, however, accused the NNPC of consistent breach of contractual agreement, saying the allegation by the corporation that the company expropriated N11 billion worth of petrol stored in its depot was a calculated attempt by the corporation to stifle and strangulate it.
The company had also called for account reconciliation with the NNPC, stressing that the corporation was indebted to it for services rendered to it at very critical periods to salvage nationwide fuel scarcity since 2015, which amounted to millions of Dollars and billions of Naira.
The arrest of Ubah was an indication that the result of the reconciliation and the outcome of DSSâ€™ investigation did not favour Capital Oil.
DSS has also accused Ubah of further engaging in other activities inimical to national security and public order.
â€œIn furtherance of his gimmicks to undermine the government and people of Nigeria, he has incited members of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), a critical player in the downstream sub-sector of the Petroleum Industry, to refuse/stop the lifting of products. This is part of his plans to curry their sentiments and cause them to embark on strike and also stage protests in his favour with the ulterior motive of arm-twisting the NNPC to abandon the cause of recovering the stolen products. The implication of this on law and order is, in fact, a common knowledge. It is consequent upon this that the Service arrested and will prosecute him forthwith,â€ DSS explained.
The secret police reassured that it would collaborate with appropriate agencies to ensure that the mischievous activities of any person or groups to engage in illegal activities will not affect the effective distribution of products across the country.
â€œIt will also support such agencies to bring to book individuals or companies involved in any criminal act that undermines the nationâ€™s economy,â€ Opuiyo added.
Explaining the details of how Capital Oil perpetrated the alleged infraction, NNPCâ€™s Chief Operating Officer in charge of Downstream, Mr. Henry Ikem Obih, had said the act was uncovered when NNPC had need to access over 100 million litres of petrol belonging to NNPC Retail Limited, which was stored at the depot of Capital Oil and another 30 million litres stored in MRS Limited depot, both in Apapa, Lagos.
Ikem-Obih had noted that the corporation discovered that the product had been sold by both firms without its authorisation, thus contravening the throughput agreements the corporation had with the two firms.
However, while MRS cooperated with the NNPC and returned the 30 million litres of petrol, Capital Oil allegedly failed to return the 82 million litres, which prompted the NNPC to petition the DSS and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).