Pressure mounts on Buhari to revisit fuel subsidy probe, oil blocks allocations

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Oil and gas industry stakeholders are mounting intense pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to reopen all cases relating to fuel subsidy fraud with a view to prosecuting all those indicted.

The stakeholders said this has become necessary as most top officials indicted by the probe panel set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan administration were released by security officials because they were close allies of the then government in power.

They posited that all those indicted one way or the other must face the full weight of the law, if the present government is sincere about ending corruption in the oil and gas industry and Nigeria as a whole.

The stakeholders alleged that over the years, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) granted fuel imports to brief case companies that had no capacity to import fuel.

“These companies only sold the petrol to sister countries and still collected billions of dollars as fuel subsidy from government whereas they did not sell the product in Nigeria. That was why the fuel imports contract was shrouded in secrecy by the agency,” they said.

According to the stakeholders, some of the indicted markers falsified the documents they tendered before the various probe panels and the police, adding that only a revisit of the issue would unearth all these anomalies.

Insisting that all those, who defrauded Nigeria and Nigerians through illegal subsidy claims must be prosecuted to serve a deterrent to others, the stakeholders reasoned that the subsidy regime must end and all stolen Nigerian monies refunded.

Nigeria spent about 2.587 trillion naira ($16.46 billion, according exchange rate then) on the fuel subsidy in 2011 alone, which was 900 per cent more than the 245 billion naira, an overspend of equivalent to over half of the 2011 budget.

Concerned about the huge amount stolen by some oil industry operators through illegal subsidy claims, a 15-man Presidential Panel headed by then Managing Director of Access Bank, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede was set up by the Federal Government to probe the fuel subsidy administration.

In the couse of the investigation, the team, had indicted some 25 oil marketing firms firm various infractions. While some of the firms and their Chief Executives were cleared, others were recommended for further investigations and were found culpable.

Oil industry analysts have frowned on a situation whereby the government secretly awarded fuel import permits to some of the indicted oil marketing companies.

They also criticised the immediate past administration for having business dealings with oil marketers and firms indicted by the police and the various panels set up by the Federal Ministry of Finance in 2012 to probe fuel subsidy infractions.

Some of the indicted persons were hurriedly released and their investigations discontinued on the orders of the immediate past administration, while some regained their freedom because they agreed to play some roles for the ruling part during the general election.

Industry stakeholders are also pushing for the revocation of all oil block licences granted by the former administration, which did not follow due process.

Sources in the oil industry said whereas the immediate past government failed to conduct any oil licensing round within the life of that administration, oil blocks were awarded to political allies without following laid down procedures.

Sources said, the new government has been under pressure to revoke such oil blocks licences and conduct an open competitive bid for oil block awards.

While some were said to have been awarded as parting gifts to local firms owned by government allies, who paid only paltry sums, others were awarded to companies that top government executives had one interest or the other.

The stakeholders blamed the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), oil and gas industry regulator for failing in its responsibilities both in the upstream and downstream petroleum industry.

They urged that “all those who failed to do what they ought to have done should be punished.”

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