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Falana Petitions EFCC, Seeks Probe of Fraudulent Fuel Importation, Smuggling of Products to Neighbouring Countries
*Accuses NNPCL of refusing to use tracking mechanisms provided by PEF, Lloyds Intelligence Report, others
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana has called for the investigation of fuel importation by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) as well as smuggling of petroleum products to neighbouring countries.
In a petition titled: “Request for Investigation into the Fraudulent Fuel Importation and Smuggling of Products to Neighbouring Countries,” dated September 15, 2022 and addressed to the Chairman of EFCC, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, Falana called for a probe of the corporation following the discrepancies in the daily consumption figures of PMS dished out by the agency at different fora and the alleged indictment of the agency by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Nigeria Customs Service.
He also accused the oil corporation of deliberately refusing to use a software used by Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) for tracking all trucks loading fuel in Nigeria and the Lloyds Intelligence Report and Thompson Reuters Ekon.
Citing media reports, the petition stated that, “On March 24, 2020, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) disclosed that Nigerians were consuming about 38.2 million litres of petrol daily.
“Specifically, the agency said, ‘while the Lagos zone with 25 depots has 483,894,000, the Calabar/Eket Zone with seven depots contains 78,731,000, Warri with 11 depots has 177,599,593, Port Harcourt comprising seven depots has 96,011,000, Umuahia, 6,938,000 and Kaduna 9,679,000.’
“Barely 15 months later, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC claimed that 38.2 million litres had grown to over 102 million litres per day, from an average of about 60 million litres per day. He blamed the astronomical rise in the consumption rate of premium motor spirit on the growing activities of smugglers of the product.”
The petition further noted that, “at a public forum on June 24, 2021, Mr. Kyari announced that the NNPC had concluded arrangements to collaborate with the EFCC, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), NCS, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other relevant security agencies to tackle the smuggling of petrol from Nigeria neighbouring countries.
“He also stated that the federal government had directed the NNPC to immediately cut down the consumption rate of PMS from the rate 102 million litres to 60 million litres.”
Citing more media reports on the matter, Falana said the federal government had distanced itself from the fraudulent importation of fuel by the NNPC.
“Thus, on March 27, 2022, the Minister of State, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timpre Sylva said that,
“When I assumed office, initially I was told that our daily consumption was 66 million litres. Then, when fuel prices increased from N145 to N162, the consumption figure temporarily fell to about 40 something million litres per day, because the arbitrage opportunity reduced.
“When the value of the naira dropped again, and the number went up again to over 60 million litres. I am told the figure sometimes rise to as high as 90 or over 100 million litres. I don’t know how that happens. At this rate, I have said if anyone is looking at a criminal enterprise, look no further than the fuel subsidy.”
Continuing, Falana stated that about two years ago, Kyari had announced plan by the national oil company to extend some of its services, including the building of filling stations across neighbouring countries.
“He stated that the move would curb illegal cross-border movement of petroleum products in countries that Nigeria shares borders with.
“But during his appearance at the public hearing on 2022 to 2024 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), in Abuja organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Finance last week, Mr. Kyari turned round to say that setting up filling stations in neighbouring countries would not stop petrol smuggling from Nigeria.
“During his own appearance at the same public hearing last week, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Colonel Hamid Ali (rtd) refuted the bogus figure of fuel allegedly smuggled out of Nigeria.
“In a rather scientific manner, Colonel Ali exposed the fraudulent claim of the NNPC when he stated inter alia:
‘If we are consuming 60 million litres of petrol per day by their own computation, why in the world would you allow the lifting of 98 million litres per day?..’
“So how do we get to 60 million everyday? If you say this petrol is smuggled, if you release 98 million litres, and then we use 60 million litres, the balance will be 38 million litres. How many trucks will carry 38 million litres? Everyday. That’s almost 500. Which road are they following? Where are they carrying this thing to?”, he queried.
“In its reaction to the serious allegation of fraudulent importation of fuel into Nigeria and the criminal act of smuggling of the product to neighbouring countries by alleged criminals the NNPC insisted that the average daily evacuation (Depot truck out) from January to August 2022 stood at 67 million litres per day as reported by the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA)”, the petition said, citing further media reports.
Falana, therefore, urged the anti-graft agency to commence investigation into alleged fraudulent fuel importation by the NNPCL in view of position of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NCS boss debunking the claims of the oil corporation.
“In view of the foregoing, it is crystal clear that the Directorate of Petroleum Resources, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigeria Customs Service have shown, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the figures of fuel importation by the NNPC are bogus and fraudulent.
“The monumental fraud was confirmed when the NNPC cut down the supply of fuel from 102 million litres to 62 million litres per day on the basis of the orders of the federal government.
“Having regards to the indictment of the NNPC by the authorities of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigeria Customs Service we are compelled to request the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate and expose the monumental fraud that has characterised fuel importation and the mismanagement of fuel subsidy by the NNPC as well the criminality of smuggling fuel from Nigeria to neighbouring countries,” he said.
“In conducting the investigation the EFCC should find out the quantity of barrels of crude refined locally and in foreign countries including West African States.
It may interest the EFCC to know the Petroleum Equalisation Fund spends billions of naira annually on Project Aquila Software which has a mechanism for tracking all trucks loading fuel in Nigeria.
“But the NNPC has deliberately refused to use the software to track the trucks allegedly involved in the loading and smuggling of fuel to neighbouring countries,” the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said
The petition further stated: “with respect to the theft of 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day the NNPC has also refused to liaise with Lloyds Intelligence Report and Thompson Reuters Ekon (both are Energy information providers like Platts) which have the record of all cargoes arriving at the international seaports in all countries including our neighbouring countries.
“If NNPC as a subscriber to both bodies is interested in tracing refined products under-delivered, round- tripped or crude oil smuggled from Nigeria, it can apply for the discharge certificates of all ships that delivered refined products to all vessels that off-take crude oil from Nigeria on a daily basis.”
Falana pledged to assist EFCC in exposing the fraudulent importation of fuel and the smuggling of the product to neighbouring countries.