More Questions On Oil Subsidy Rip-off

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In this analysis, KUNLE ODEREMI says the report of the House of Representatives’ ad-hoc committee on the controversial N2 trillion oil subsidies will require the political will of the authorities to implement in order to restore sanity into the oil industry.

AT last, the report of the House of Representatives probe panel on subsidy fund management has been made public. It has brought a temporary relief to the vast majority of Nigerians, following initial speculations about a grand plot by some powerful forces to torpedo it. This stemmed from feelers that the report contained incredible details on the rot in the industry, coupled with the huge financial fraud allegedly perpetrated by oil companies.

Before the report was tabled on the floor of the House on Wednesday, part of its findings had found its way to the public domain. The media had been abuzz with a worrisome list of some oil firms that the report found extremely wanting and invariably actually have a case to answer. The report recommended that each of the companies was to refund huge sums of money received through undercut as subsidy. The least amount to be refunded to the state was a sum of N1.2 billion, while the highest was N8.5 billion. By the report, no fewer than 69 firms were to pay back without question, the total of N241.247 billion to the state.

Unbelievably, the report also expressed strong reservations on the transactions of both the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Petroleum Product  and Pricing Agency (PPRA), following discrepancies in fuel import and actual subsidy. The report faulted alleged discrepancies from the corporation.

Another startling detail of the leaked report was that 46 firms evaded tax, which were statutorily to be collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service [FIRS].

Curiously, however, some names were missing from the list, going by the names of firms reeled out during the public hearing and said to have short changed the country through dubious subsidy. The original list contained the names of firms belonging to famous names in the Nigerian business community. A few of the companies were even said to be merely acted as conduits for siphoning the scarce resource of the country.

Nigerians were on edge on Wednesday when the actual report was brought before the House. People were devastated by the claim of the ad-hoc committee that NNPC, PPRA and 72 other oil companies were discovered to have been fraudulently paid subsidy.  This implies that the country and indeed the more than 160 million population of the country was denied a staggering a sum of N1 trillion in the name of oil subsidy, a colossal amount that could have gone into other strategic sectors of the national economy.  The report also indicted the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for allegedly paying N127.8billion within 24 hours to some unknown beneficiaries.

It is hard to believe that NNPC could be such a storm and be found culpable, as it ought to enjoy the confidence of the people and the government as the primary manager of the economic mainstay of Nigeria. The committee has recommended that the corporation should refund N595.49 billion to the Federation Account and PPRA. It is equally disturbing that OAGF allegedly paid N999 million in 128 times within 24 hours.

From all indications, the report could be a tip of the iceberg on the scale of corruption and theft in the oil industry on the issue of subsidy, given the fact that the probe was limited to the period 2010 and this year. It can be reasoned that more mind-boggling revelations and discoveries await the nation if the authorities acquiesced to the fresh clamour that the probe should be extended to the time the country returned to civil rule about 12 years ago. But beyond such call is the sickening reality about the degeneracy and decadence in public institutions and agencies that have the statutory responsibility of managing public resources.

One important issue arising from the strange discoveries and recommendations of the probe panel is the place of probity in the industry. The summary of the whole report, according to observers, is that there appears to be a system collapse in the management and running of the sector. Efficiency, proficiency, transparency and due process have all taken flight from the sector, which incidentally, is the pivot of the Nigerian economy.

But what is the guarantee that the recommendations of the probe will not go the way of others before it? The fear is strengthened by one of the recommendations that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) should be mandated to take necessary steps towards recovering the sum of N230.1 billion from the indicted 72 oil companies. The anti-graft agencies have more than a handful of high profile cases that have been pending for several years, with some critics insinuating that the additional burden could amount to whipping a dead horse.

Nonetheless, Nigerians hope that all the recommendations would be faithfully implement by the appropriate quarters by not treating the issue as a family matter and based on glaring political considerations. It is important the authorities establish the identities of those unnamed entities that were paid 128 times the sum of N127.872 billion. They cannot be ghosts. The secrecy of such categories of firms and individuals is among the questions still begging for answers in the overall report.

 

In : Politics