Top government officials indicted

Petroleum Minister Mrs. Alison Diezani-Madueke

Written by Turaki A. Hassan

At least 100 petrol marketers were found to have collected billions of naira illegally in the name of subsidy and should be forced to make refunds, according to snippets from a report of the House of Representatives committee that probed the subsidy regime.

Committee chairman Faruk Lawal told the House in plenary session on Thursday that the panel had completed its assignment but he did not make the contents public.

Daily Trust sources who are privy to contents of the panel’s report said fuel importers and government officials were found to have connived to make overpayments of about N773 billion in subsidy funds last year.

The report, which is expected to be submitted to the House later in the month, will say that 100 oil marketers illegally collected billions in subsidies and therefore should be made to refund those monies.

A source said at least a quarter of the marketers failed to appear before the committee during the hearings and many of those who came lacked requirements for bulk oil import licenses such as tank farms and retail outlets.

The House ad hoc committee held series of hearings in January and February to, among others, determine the exact amount spent on subsidies and to also find if there was fraud as widely alleged.

The probe was instituted in the wake of the petrol subsidy removal protests in January, when questions arose as to what were the exact subsidy payment figures.

Government at the time said up to N1.3 trillion was spent in 2011, even though officials gave higher, conflicting figures during the hearings.

Daily Trust learnt that the probe report will say that the Federal Government was found to have spent a whopping sum of N2.5 trillion on petrol subsidy in 2011.

A member of the Lawal-led committee, who spoke to Daily Trust on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the report, said the panel uncovered the huge spending by government organs in the name of subsidy.

The source said the report will say that the N2.5 trillion spent on subsidy in 2011was in contravention of the 2011 budget which provided only N245 billion for subsidy payments.

Sources in the panel also said present and past government officials in oil and gas-related agencies have been implicated in shoddy deals in the operation of the subsidy regime.

In the report, NNPC will be blamed for illegal deductions of over a N1 trillion as its own share of subsidy charges from the Federation Account.

The PPPRA was equally not spared by the committee, as the report will say that it tampered with the oil import template, licensing of “portfolio or briefcase companies” and other transactions.

Contrary to what government officials told the panel during the public hearing, the probe found that the actual daily fuel consumption is 30 million litres per day.

Subsidy paid on the diverted fuel stood at about N773 billion, the report will say, according to Daily Trust sources.

For 2012, while the government budgeted N656.3 billion for petrol subsidy, the panel will recommend a lower figure of about N500 billion.

The report will also say the daily kerosene consumption is eight million litres and not 10 million as given by the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Austen Oniwon.

“We spent the last two weeks sleeping in the office processing the report and…we had to go to Llyods in London to verify all vessels that were said to have brought fuel to Nigeria,” one lawmaker said.

The committee will recommend that anti-graft agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), should prosecute all government officials and companies found wanting.

The report is expected to be presented at plenary session on April 17 when the House reconvenes after the Easter break.

The House probe was instituted on January 8 after a motion moved by Rep. Yusuf Tajuddeen (PDP, Kogi) and 100 others during an unprecedented emergency session of the House held on a Sunday, following removal of petrol subsidies on January 1 by the Federal Government.

Via Daily Trust

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