A federal lawmaker, Senator Bukola Saraki, has urged the Nigerian Government to completely remove fuel subsidy and restore normalcy to the sector.
Addressing reporters in Abuja on Monday after the Senate held a meeting with petroleum marketers, Senator Saraki claimed fuel subsidy had provided a platform for fraudulent activities to oil marketers and government officials.
The Senator said the subsidy was used to loot the national treasury on a yearly basis.
He argued that it would be better to remove fuel subsidy and deliver the sector and the citizenry from the grip of racketeers in the industry, who would never allow things to work well because of their selfish interest.
Senator Saraki’s comments were made in line with the fuel scarcity in Nigeria.
Service stations are selling fuel far above the official price of 87 Naira per litre.
Few service stations that have the product sell above 300 Naira per litre.
Senator Saraki is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the incoming President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, who is also a member of the APC, had said he would look into the fuel subsidy implementation and address challenges in the oil and gas sector.
The situation has forced several businesses that are dependent on fuel for electricity generation to shut down.
A member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, is insisting on the total removal of subsidy on petroleum products, claiming the aim for which the policy was introduced has been defeated.
At a media chat with the House of Representatives’ press correspondents in Abuja, Honourable Chinda cited wrong timing and poor public sensitisation on the part of government as some of his reasons Nigerians kicked against the initial removal of the subsidy in 2012.
He also said corruption had assumed a monstrous status in the country, making a mess of the subsidy regime.
The lawmaker further backed the campaign for capital punishment against persons involved in looting public treasury, disclosing that he plans to sponsor a bill in that direction.
The Nigerian government had in January 2012 removed the subsidy totally, a decision that led to rallies at different states kicking against the removal.
After several days rally, the government restored some parts of the subsidy but stressed that there was the need for total removal of the subsidy to enable enable the government re-invest the funds set aside for subsidy payments on needed infrastructures.
The government has however said that it had no plan to remove the subsidy totally soon.
The Niger State office of the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P), has concluded arrangements for a one month skill acquisition programme for 3,000 unemployed youths across the state.
The Director General of the scheme in Niger State, Hassan Nuru, who revealed this to Channels Television in Minna, explained that after the programme, the youths will be given financial support to enable them start their chosen businesses immediately after the training.
He also mentioned that the scheme in the last 6 months has employed over 1,000 youths from the 25 local government areas of the state, as sanitary inspectors and green guards, a situation he noted has helped to reduce the unemployment rate in the state.
Mister Nuhu also said the SURE-P office in the state has provided 3,000 tricycles on hire basis, as a means to improve the economic conditions of the vast unemployed youths across the state.
A Lagos High Court on Friday awarded the sum N1 million each as compensation to four protester who were shot by a police officer during the protest against fuel subsidy removal in January 2012 in Lagos.
Presiding Judge, Justice Bola Okikiolu-Ighile, ruled the total sum of N4million damages against the Nigerian Police Force and Fabunmi for “recklessly shooting and inflicting bodily injury” on the protesters.
The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Pen Cinema, Segun Fabunmi. Fabunmi had on the 9th of January 2012, killed 27-year old Samuel Ademola Aderinto Abe, and injured four others at Yaya Abata street, Ogba Agege, in Lagos during the fuel subsidy protest.
Fabunmi has since been dismissed.
The Office of the Public Defender (OPD) on behalf of the four applicants, filed a civil suit against the Nigeria Police Force and the police officer in March 2012, for N200 million damages for the killing of Abiodun and N100 million each for four others, who were wounded by police bullets during the protest.
A criminal case against Mr Fabunmi and the Police Force still stands in the court for the murder of Samuel Ademola Aderinto Abe.
The Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister Of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Friday said the Federal Government has this week paid a total of N56.7 billion to 14 oil marketers as fuel subsidy claims for 2012.
The Minister said this week’s payment brings the total amount paid as subsidy claims for 2012 to N393 billion.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala listed Bovas and Company Limited, Folawiyo Energy Limited, Forte Oil Plc, Ibafon Oil Limited, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited, MRS Oil Nigeria Plc, NIPCO Plc, OANDO Plc as some of the companies that received payment for the 2012 fuel subsidy claims.
Others are Northwest Petroleum and Gas Limited, Rainoil Limited, Shorelink Oil and Gas Services, Swift Oil Limited, Techno Oil Limited and Total Nigeria Plc.
The Minister said based on the report of the Aig-Imoukhuede “We’ve been able to make some additional payments to marketers this week of N56.7 billion.”
“We’ve made payments to 14 marketers, most of them are the major marketers who have been screened successfully now by the Aig-Imoukhuede committee,” she added.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said that a total of N30 billion has been released for the actualization of the Subsidy Re- Investment Programme.
She however assured Nigerians that talks on the 2013 Budget has commenced with members of the National Assembly.
The Federal Government has alleged that oil marketers planning to embark on a nationwide strike action are those who have been indicted by the Aig-Imoukhuede’s report on fuel subsidy payments.
The allegation was made in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Paul C. Nwabiukwu, on Wednesday, which claimed the federal government has stopped paying the indicted oil marketers.
The statement said “it is clear that the strike was instigated mainly by marketers who were indicted by the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee which investigated fuel subsidy payments.”
The statement further said that the federal government has stopped payments of oil marketers that were penciled down for investigation “However, the claims by marketers who have been recommended for further investigation by the Aig-Imoukhuede Presidential Committee have not been paid”.
The statement also called on Nigerians not to be deceived “by their antics”.
It also highlighted the federal government’s zero tolerance to corrupt persons and organisations.
“The Federal Government is determined to ensure that persons and organisations which did the wrong things do not get away with wrong actions and wrong behavior”.
Corroborating the claim, Minister of state for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama said that a total of N42 billion has been paid to 31 one oil marketers as subsidy payments.
“In all, between April and August this year, in respect of 2012 PMS claims, Sovereign Debt Notes amounting to N42.666 billion have been issued to 31 oil marketers”.
The minister was speaking after the monthly Federations Account Allocation Committee meeting in Abuja.
Dr. Ngama said that the intention of the indicted oil marketers is to blackmail government and avoid sanctions on crimes committed.
He further stated that the sum of N522 billion is to be distributed to the Federal, State and Local government areas for the month of July.
Chairman of the house committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Mr. Adams Jagaba has denied receiving the sum of 500, 000 dollars from embattled former chairman of the ad-hoc committee on fuel subsidy, Mr. Farouk Lawan. Bringing a new twist to the ongoing $620, 000 bribery allegation brought against Mr. Lawan.
Jagaba, was speaking after a closed-door meeting with the house Ethics committee which is investigating the matter, where he presented his own testimony.
Jabaga, however, maintained that he will never be involved in any act that runs contrary to national interest.
While stating that he first saw the letter purportedly written by Lawan on the pages of a newspaper and later at the Police headquarters, the lawmaker analysed the letter and pointed out the errors contained in it.
Jagaba said it was an attempt to destroy his reputation.
He said: “Farouk Lawan alleged that he wrote a letter to me attaching $500,000. That is callously untrue and in fact, calculated to smear my hard-earned reputation, a reputation I painstakingly built since 1999.
“I never received any letter, or money, or any other exhibit from Farouk Lawan.
“I saw for the first time the purported letter on a page of the Leadership Newspaper, page 6 of June 14, 2012; and the closest copy which I saw and touched, was the copy he presented to the Police Special Task Force investigating the bribery scandal, when I went there on July 10.
“I was invited by the Police STF while in South Africa attending the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Africa Region) Summit.
“When I returned to Nigeria, I went to the Police Force Headquarters on July 10 at about 11:00 am to give my own side of the story on the bribery scandal investigation and I spent precisely two hours with them.”
A Federal High Court, in Abuja has barred the federal government from implementing the fuel subsidy report by not prosecuting any official of the Integrated Oil and Gas Ltd. Presiding Judge, Justice Gladys Olotu, in her ruling on Wednesday, ordered that the “status quo” be maintained, pending the determination of the originating summons filed by the company.
“The government and its agents are hereby prevented from arresting, detaining, prosecuting and recovering the N13.2 billion alleged to have been received by the plaintiff as fuel subsidy claims, pending the determination of the case,” she said.
Justice Oluto, also granted accelerated hearing in the suit, saying “this summons is hereby accorded an accelerated hearing in order to expeditiously dispose of it.”
The company prayed the court on June 25th with a motion on notice brought pursuant to Order 26 Rule 2 and Order 28 Rule 1 of the Court Civil Procedure Rules 2009.
Integrated Oil prayed the court to declare that the Federal Government, as represented by the defendants joined in the suit was not entitled by law to act or take any step on account of the resolution of the first defendant.
The company also requested an injunction restraining the defendants whether by themselves, their servants, agents or representatives from any act or taking steps against the plaintiff and its officers on account of implementing the April 25th subsidy report.
The oil marketing company is amongst the 210 companies included in the fuel subsidy report produced by the House of Representatives ad-hoc Committee on the management of the nation’s Fuel Subsidy. Integrated Oil is alleged to have claims of N13.2 billion collected from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Joined in the case are the House of Representatives, the embattled former chairman of the ad-hoc Committee on the Management of Fuel Subsidy, Farouk Lawan and the Attorney General of the Federation. Also joined are the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Inspector General of Police.
The company, which is owned by a former Internal Affairs Minister, Emmanuel Ihenacho, sued the respondents, following the indictment of the company as one of the major oil marketers that collected foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and failed to import or supply the fuel.
The plaintiff sought a declaration that the resolution of the first defendant-House of Reps-passed on April 25th, which approved the report of the Ad-hoc Committee was illegal.
Speaking to journalists after the proceeding, Tayo Eyitibo (SAN), counsel to the plaintiff, said any action taken against his client would be illegal, particularly when it had challenged the constitutionality and credibility of the probe report.
Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), counsel to the defendants, noted that the order granted for accelerated hearing of the suit was important to the case.
He added that government would complete investigations into the matter in order to pave the way for the prosecution of indicted companies.
“The report of the committee is still being considered as fact finding, requiring relevant security agencies to first study it before any legal action can be taken,” he said.
The case was adjourned to October 18 for further hearing.
The Chairman of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, Femi Otedola, on Tuesday honoured the invitation of the House of Representatives Ethics and Privileges Committee probing his alleged $620,000 bribe to the suspended Chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Farouk Lawan which probed the management of the fuel subsidy fund. The committee then went into a closed door session. However, Mr Otedola requested the hearing should be conducted in public.
The committee had invited the billionaire businessman to explain allegations that he gave $620,000 bribe to Mr Lawan, and the erstwhile secretary, Boniface Emenalo, to get his companies off the list of firms indicted for the alleged mismanagement of oil subsidy funds.
The Save Nigeria Group (SNG) on Monday said that it has decided to stay action on its threat to organise a nationwide public protest over what it described as the Federal Government reluctance to prosecute those indicted in the subsidy probe report.
The group had last two weeks threatened a mass action if the federal government did not act speedily to prosecute all those indicted in the report.
However, following an assurance from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that it would act on the report and bring all those indicted to justice, the SNG in a press conference in Lagos said it was given the commission the benefit of doubt to act within a time frame.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has issued a statement acknowledging receipt of the House Report with a promise to prosecute those indicted after it has done its own investigations. The EFCC’s argument seems plausible to the extent that it is not intended to pursue the agenda of an executive arm that is enmeshed in scandals and would prefer the nation forgets and moves on,” text of the press conference reads in part.
The group stopped short of issuing a deadline within which it expects to see action.
The group also says it has filed a suit at a federal high court in Lagos seeking a legal pronouncement on budget overspend and declaration that the federal government violated the law in spending beyond budgetary provisions.
More action less talk
The group called on the government to take action on the report rather than release statements to the public describing the comment credited to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello-Adoke as ‘doublespeak’ and delay tactics.
Mr Bello-Adoke had last week called the report of the House of Representative ad hoc committee that probed the management of the fuel subsidy fund as mere ‘fact finding’ document.
“The AGF’s statement is doublespeak, which is at best a tactic to delay justice and at worst a ploy to deny justice by lulling the nation into forgetfulness,” the statement reads.
The group listed the some examples which it used to illustrate that the AGF’s position is untenable: “i. The aviation sector probe was still in session when Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and Prof. Babalola Borisade (former Aviation Ministers) were arrested and charged to court;
ii. It took just an allegation of bribery by the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against the Herman Hembe Committee for the House to disband the committee and set up a new panel. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has gone ahead to obtain a court order to prosecute Hon. Hembe and his deputy Azubuogu Ifeanyi while the new panel is still sitting;
iii. The accounting firms of Akintola Williams & Co and Olusola Adekanola & Co were fired by the Ministry of Finance before the House adopted the report. What were the “further investigations” conducted on the “fact-finding” report of the House before these firms were punished?”
Click here to read the full text of the SNG press conference.
Our previous report
Group to begin another subsidy protest in 24 hours
Despite assurances by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to prosecute those indicted in the report by the House of Representatives’ ad-hoc subsidy regime, the convener of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Pastor Tunde Bakare, says the two week ultimatum to go on demonstration stands.
Speaking with our political correspondent, Deji Bademosi, on the programme ‘Politics today’, Pastor Bakare says in less than 24 hours, the group will carry out its threat.
He calls the moves taken so far by the government as “sandy steps” and we demand “concrete steps”.
The Attonery-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, had recently stated that the federal government is yet to carry any action on the report by the House of Representatives committee on fuel subsidy management, saying the report by the ad-hoc committee is a fact-finding mission and that the reports will be forwarded to the necessary agencies for investigation and necessary actions.
Mr Bakare recalled that during a probe into the aviation sector, it took the government no time before a suit was filed against the former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode. “They didn’t consider the probe a fact finding mission” he said.
He also added that it took just a mere allegation by the Director-General of the Security and Excahnge Commission (SEC) against the chairman House of Representative committee on the capital market, Rep. Hernan Hermbe, before the committee was disbanded and the EFCC is already investigating Mr Hermbe.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday said that the Petroleum Subsidy Report would be used as supporting evidence in the prosecution of anyone suspected to have been involved in the mismanagement of the subsidy fund.
The commission disclosed this in a press statement signed by its Acting Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, in Abuja.
“The commission wishes to acknowledge receipt of the report of the House of Representatives Committee inquiry into the Federal Government Petroleum Products Subsidy programme on Thursday, May 10, 2012.
“The commission wishes to commend the honourable members of the House of Representatives for making the document available.
“The EFCC will study the report and use the findings, supported by evidence, along with the commission’s own painstaking criminal investigation to build a watertight case that will stand the test of rigorous prosecution against those found wanting.
“EFCC wishes to reiterate that anyone, individual or group found to have engaged in criminal manipulation of the subsidy regime would be dealt with in accordance with the law.”
The House of Representative ad hoc committee that probed the fuel subsidy regime had reported that mismanagement and theft by top Nigerian officials involved in the corrupt fuel subsidy arrangement cost the country over N1 trillion.
The Farouk Lawan-led committee had recommended that the sum of N1, 067,040,456,171.31 be refunded to the Federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, oil marketers, companies that refused to appear before the committee as well as the Petroleum Product Pricing and Regulatory Agency.