(By Emejuiwe Victor)
“I beg to ask, having determined the frauds associated with the escalation of the subsidy figure, is the Federal Government still paying petroleum marketers the same amount that previously made petroleum subsidy uncharitable? In essence, if the fraud claims can be clearly separated from the actual claims, then the government should be currently paying less on subsidy“.
HAVE we heard the last concerning those that ripped the nation dry, from the petroleum support fund? Please we need to know. Perhaps a quick response to the question above will satisfy our curiosity. This question has become necessary following the new dimension in which discussions about petrol subsidy has taken. It has all the while been call for the removal of fuel subsidy and silence on the prosecutions of indicted subsidy thieves. To keep the records straight, we recall that the Federal Government decided to stop payment of fuel subsidy following the discovery of escalated subsidy figure from N260 billion in 2009, to N1.7 trillion in 2011.Thanks to a very active citizenry who saw the impending hardship accompanying such decision and unanimously rejected the move.
The magnitude of the public reaction led to the call for investigation of the subsidy regime. The committee set up was able to unravel what led to the sudden increase of the subsidy figures. We also recall, that the investigation, carried out by Farouk Lawal exposed over 93 oil marketers and individuals. These marketers fraudulently obtained money for fuel not supplied by presenting unverified documents. A total of N960 billion was discovered to have been fully collected by these marketers. There are various unverified amounts and cases claimed to have been recovered and cleared by the court, but yet there is no basic information about the prosecution of the companies or individuals; and the status of the amount recovered.
Where are the subsidy thieves? Are they roaming freely, going on with their normal business and possibly obtaining more fraudulent funds from government?
This question is thrown to the concerned authorities, and several reasons warrant the asking.
First is that, we have a country where quick succession of crime is reported daily, as a result new crimes take precedence of the old. Unfortunately; these crimes all fade away after public attention have been drawn to something more recent. I am afraid if this has also become the status of the oil thieves.
Second, the government has been raving up strong campaign from different stakeholders for the removal of fuel subsidy, whereas the root cause of the subsidy frauds have not been dealt with. The government and these agents have been claiming that subsidy payment is taking a lot of money from the nation. I beg to ask, having determined the frauds associated with the escalation of the subsidy figure, is the Federal Government still paying petroleum marketers the same amount that previously made petroleum subsidy uncharitable? In essence, if the fraud claims can be clearly separated from the actual claims, then the government should be currently paying less on subsidy. In this case parting with N260 billion on behalf of the citizens should not be too much sacrifice to make.
Third, we seek for the whereabouts of the subsidy thieves because we need to recover the money they stole from Nigerians. It is not enough to set up committee with tax payer’s money and after spending such valuable time and money and arousing public interest; they are left to walk away without visible punishments accorded to them.
Fourth, if we recover the stolen money from these marketers, it will make up for the shortfall of revenue once recorded by the government and it can be used to build more refineries so as to relieve the poor of the pains they would suffer when subsidy is removed. In other words, until adequate refineries are built in Nigeria, subsidy on petrol is bound to continue.
Fifth, following the illegality perpetrated by the oil marketers, it will interest Nigerians to know, if the government is still comfortable trading with the same marketers despite their lack of patriotism to the nation. If that be the case, what happens to the duty of government in upholding ethical and moral standards across the nation? There are penal codes with provisions for sanctions against fraudulent persons, and I don’t think the subsidy thieves should be exempted.
We need to know the whereabouts of the subsidy thieves because the case against them attracted a lot of public attention and therefore the public would be interested to see how well, justice is been delivered.
Also note that, several issues were raised in the investigation of fuel subsidy fraud; and it is only expected that the Federal Government addresses them. Objectively, the parties to be blamed for the fuel subsidy fraud are agencies of government working with the oil marketers. The NNPC was accused of conspiring with the marketers to defraud the nation, because they failed to verify claims made by the marketers. The CBN and the Minister of Finance who released payments for the marketers were also left with a lot of question to answer.
Evidently, there is failure on the part of government in the management of the subsidy regime; based on this, the persons involved with those transactions should be brought to book.
For the subsidy thieves, we expect to know if the EFCC are still on the trail of those indicted, have they also been able to prove to the court that the marketers have cases to answer. We expect that the EFCC study the cases against the oil thieves and collaborate with other anti-corruption agencies to arrest and prosecute those yet to be prosecuted. The Judiciary is the last hope of the common man, based on that, the expectation of the masses is that justice is served on those that have conspired against the good of the nation.
In deciding the case of the subsidy thieves, we don’t expect the Judiciary to use technicalities in deciding their fate. We rather believe that the substance of the case be considered and adequate punishments meted out.
Finally, we are making this enquiry about the subsidy thieves, because we expect the delegated authorities to release feedbacks, on ongoing cases against the indicted marketers. Nigerians would rather prefer that its sensibilities are not clouded with the propaganda of removing subsidy for whatsoever reason; rather it is expected that the needful is done. We demand for the building of more refineries, prosecution of subsidy thieves and recovery of stolen funds from the marketers. Once again we ask; where are the subsidy thieves?
• Victor wrote from the Center for Social Justice, Abuja
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