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Fuel Subsidy Fraud: EFCC to Arraign Marketers Today

News » Politics

Image:Ibrahim Lamorde, EFCC Chairman

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will today charge the detained directors of seven oil-marketing companies, including Eterna Oil Plc and Nasaman Oil Services Limited, to the Lagos High Court for their alleged complicity in the petrol subsidy fraud.

Eterna and Nasaman Oil are believed to be owned and promoted by chieftains of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

However, as the EFCC proceeds with the prosecution of marketers, oil marketers under the aegis of Jetties and Petroleum Tank Farms Owners of Nigeria (JEPTFON) yesterday made good their threat to shut down their jetties and tank farms.

This is just as the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMA) has given the Federal Government a 48-hour ultimatum to pay all verified and outstanding subsidy claims, failing which its members shall suspend the supply and distribution of petroleum products nationwide
Though details of the arraignment by EFCC were still sketchy as at press time yesterday, THISDAY gathered that the directors of five other oil-marketing companies will also be arraigned for allegedly collecting subsidies through fraudulent means.

EFCC sources, who confirmed the development, told THISDAY that the charges against the affected directors had been prepared by the legal department of the anti-graft agency and its external prosecuting counsel.

The companies will be charged before five judges who have been handpicked by the Chief Judge of Lagos, Justice Adeyoola Phillips.

The judges are: Justice Samuel Candid-Johnson, Justice Lawal Akapo, Justice Habeeb Abiru, Justice Adeniyo Onibajo and Justice Dotun Adefope-Okojie.

An EFCC source had confirmed to THISDAY during the weekend that the commission had in the course of investigations identified marketers, who  had “fraudulently and knowingly” collected subsidies from the Federal Government.

He said the commission was able to establish the fraud committed by the marketers, by comparing the bills of lading at their offshore banks with the bills of lading they had submitted to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) for subsidy claims.
In doing so, the source revealed, EFCC had found discrepancies in these documents, indicating that the marketers submitted forged documents to make their claims.

The EFCC source said this was done by fraudulently altering the bills of lading with the offshore banks for which the Letter of Credit (LC) was opened by the Nigerian banks, potentially indicating that there is a syndicate that specialises in forging bills of lading.

The commission, the source said, has commenced investigations to unmask this syndicate.

The source added that having established the fraud committed by these marketers, the agency invited them for questioning.

“When they were confronted with the damning evidence in the possession of the EFCC, they could not deny it. They owned up to the fraud,” he said.

It was learnt that the EFCC took mug shots of these marketers, released some of them on administrative bail and detained five others, who the source said, are likely to be arraigned in Lagos.

THISDAY also gathered that to ensure that all legal loopholes are covered, the EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, was said to have met with Justic Phillips on Friday to intimate her of the commission’s intention to prosecute the fradulent marketers at the Lagos High Court.
The choice of arraigning the indicted marketers in Lagos, it was learnt, was because they committed the crime through the Lagos ports and most of them also have their registered offices in the state.

The EFCC source further revealed that in addition to these marketers that the agency is set to prosecute, the anti-graft commission and the State Security Service (SSS) are closely monitoring other marketers suspected to have defrauded the subsidy scheme.

Such marketers, the source added, included those who imported petroleum products and claimed subsidy on such products, using dead ships, known in industry parlance as ‘decommissioned ships’, as well as or unverifiable mother and daughter vessels.

The source stated that the commission was still trying to conclude its investigations into this category of marketers.
But as an interim measure, the source added that the agency had identified those who pose a flight risk and those who own private jets, and had solicited the SSS’ assistance in monitoring their movements.

The source also disclosed that the law enforcement agency had informed Interpol in the event that any of these marketers under investigation crosses the country’s borders.

Industry sources also reliably informed THISDAY that it is marketers who know that the noose is being tightened around their necks that have become jittery and have mobilised other marketers and the oil unions to threaten strike under the guise that the Federal Government has not paid their outstanding subsidy claims.

Meanwhile, DAPPMA has given the Federal Government 48 hours ultimatum to pay all verified and outstanding subsidy claims, accrued interests and the foreign exchange differentials arising from late payments, failing which its members will suspend the supply of petroleum products nationwide.

In a communiqué at the end of its emergency meeting yesterday, the association stated that the bank loans used to finance importation of petroleum products have continued to accrue interest over and above the 45 days allowed for reimbursement.

The association said the unilateral decision by the Federal Government to indefinitely suspend all verified and outstanding subsidy payments since January had exposed its members to financial crisis.

The communiqué, which was signed by the President of the association, Mr. Dapo Abiodun, and Secretary, Mr. Ikem Ohia, also stated that DAPPMA members had been exposed to the “harsh effects of the devaluation of the naira that will make it impossible to fully repay the outstanding dollar denominated loans when eventually payments are made by the Federal Government.”

DAPPMA demanded that government should within 48 hours pay all verified and outstanding subsidy claims and all the accrued interests over and above the contractual period.
It also demanded the payment of all the foreign exchange differentials arising from late payment of subsidy.

“That DAPPMA therefore implores government to meet the above demands within 48 hours, failing which we will be constrained to suspend the supply and distribution of petroleum products nationwide,” the communiqué added.
The association noted that with a combined storage capacity of 2 billion litres, its members have the highest tankage volume in the country.

According to the association, since the partial deregulation policy introduced by the administration of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar in 1998, DAPPMA members had invested over $3 billion in the downstream sector of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.

Should DAPPMA go on strike, it will be joining JEPTON, which issued a similar ultimatum to the Federal Government, effective yesterday, for the non-payment of subsidy claims.
THISDAY gathered JEPTON members made good their threat by shutting their tank farms and jetties.

Article Credit: Thisday News

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Updated 6 Years ago

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