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Fuel subsidy probe:FG to recover N382b from 21 indicted firms
By Victor Iluyemi
July 24, 2012 19:36:47pm GMT
Goodluck Jonathan

Abuja (WorldStage Newsonline)-- The Presidential Committee on Verification and Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy payment submitted its final report to President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday with indiction of 21 firms for making fraudulent claims.

The Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede led committee therefore asked the Federal Government to commence the process of recovering the sum of N382billion from the indicted companies.

The said N382billion was part of the contentious N422 billion identified by the Technical Committee which was also chaired by Aig-Imoukhuede.

Following the submission of the report of the Federal Government Technical Committee which looked into fuel subsidy management between 2010-2011, the President on Thursday, July 5th constituted the Presidential Committee on Verification and Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy payment made between 2009 and 2011.

The Presidential committee’s terms of reference include to further verify and reconcile all claims made in the report of the Technical Committee on Fuel Subsidy Payments; to properly identify all cases of overpayment and/or irregular payment; to accurately identify all likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation and also to review any other pertinent issues that may arise from its work and make appropriate recommendations.

The committee turned in its report on 13th of July after one week of work in line with the president’s directive.

Aig-Imoukhuede who briefed State House Correspondents shortly after submitting the report in the company of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke Bello and the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said the committee had six categories of issues, likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation involving 21 firms.

He also noted that there were issues of irregular payments and short-time certificate issues among others.

Of the contentious N422 billion, the committee noted that N18 billion was found to be duplication thereby the actual amount that was being verified was N403 billion.

Of the balance of N403billion, the committee was able to clear N21 billion thereby leaving the sum of N382 billion as the sum in contention for which the committee recommended that the process of recovery should be made.

In final report submitted according to Aig-Imoukhuede, the committee made 22 recommendations which include recovery process of the illegal payment of N382 billion.

He also noted that in reaching its final report, the 116 oil marketing and trading companies that participated in the Petroleum subsidy scheme under review were invited for interview with 107 honouring the invitation.

“There were 116 oil marketing and trading companies which I will call OM&T during the course of this interaction that participated in the petroleum subsidy scheme in the period of review.

“The Presidential Committee invited all 116 for interviews, 107 OMT honoured invitation, they were interviewed by various panels constituted by the committee and the outcome of these interviews are also captured in the report.

Painstaking efforts were made to ensure fairness, OM&T's were given the opportunity to come back with as much documentation and even be re-interviewed where necessary.

“We have six categories of issues, likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation- you have 21 OM&T affected. We have short-time certificate issues, you have as number of OMT involved in irregular payments and so on.

“There are 22 recommendations made by the Committee. I will like to summarise them as follows: Obviously, the first is the recovery of the said amount.

“The next is possible criminal investigation and prosecution of the OMT that are found to have engaged in likely fraudulent issues.

“Also, the external auditors and any government functionaries who served will be further interviewed to determine the roles if any in the issues that were discussed.”

Explaining further, Aig-Imoukhuede said, “It is important to note that the fuel subsidy scheme involved the sourcing, importation and distribution of petroleum and other related products within Nigerian. And based on the fact that you have a subsidy regime, the claiming of subsidies by those who import these products.

“I thing Mr President has demonstrated unique wisdom in constituting very strong technocrats in the Presidential Committee. The reality is, without the type of experience you see in some of the ladies and gentlemen that are here drawn from the CBN, Attorney General's office, SSS, banks and so on, it will be quite difficult and challenging for a layman to even understand how these issues arose and to even put up a case that will be successful in the court of law.

“It has taken time, it is better to do your homework thoroughly before you take action as opposed to rush and take action and then be embarrassed in court because you didn't do your homework.

“We believe that at this juncture and based on the recommendations of the committee, Nigerians will begin to see the Federal Government take the action that is visible having gone through the invisible hardwork of putting together the cases against those who may have misbehaved in the fuel subsidy programme.”

He therefore urged the Federal Government to fully implement the recommendations of the technical committee report.

According to him, “We also recognise the need for the accelerated implementation of all the recommendations in the Technical Committee report.

Finally, our recommendation is that for the nation to keep putting together teams of technocrats to pursue those who abuse a subsidy regime is not sustainable. The lasting and final solution to ensure that this kind of thing does not occur again is for the deregulation of fuel subsidy.”

The Attorney General also explained that the objective of the work of the committee which he said it “is to kind of fine-tune what the EFCC is doing, it is complimentary of the EFCC report as well as that of the House of Representatives.”

Explaining further he said, “the entire objective is that the government is not just interested in prosecuting those that are engaged in impunity for violating the process, but also recovering the money and will need technocrats to help us identify the exact amount of money because with the prosecution, the society itself must benefits by having a restitution. We are going to recover this money and we are going to set the process for recovery alongside the prosecution.”

On the possibility of recovering the said N382billion, said, “There are number of options. The first is to determine whether you have some of the subsidy payments due still within the banking system in the possession of those who illegally collected them.

“There are other powers that the Federal Government has with respect to transactions that are ongoing and claims that such people may have for additional fuel subsidies-that is another source of recovery.

“We have also looked at one or two interesting enabling laws that allow the Federal Government take certain steps we will not mention now.”

On the possibility of recovering theN382 billion, Aig-Imoukhuede said, “ It will be naïve that we can recover the whole amount. The most important thing is that the state diligently pursues recovery to its logical conclusion. At the end of the day having exhausted all means at its disposal, I think the people of Nigeria will know that justice has been done.”

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