Where Are The Fuel Subsidy Thieves? By Emejuiwe Victor
Have we heard the last concerning those that ripped the nation dry, from the Petroleum Support Fund? 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 prosecution 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 N260bn in 2009, to N1.7tn in 2011. Thanks to a very active citizenry who saw the impending hardship accompanying such a 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 the Farouk Lawan-led House ad hoc committee exposed over 93 oil marketers and individuals. These marketers fraudulently obtained money for fuel not supplied by presenting unverified documents. A total of N960bn was discovered to have been falsefully 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 a quick succession of crimes is reported daily, as a result, new crimes take precedence over the old. Unfortunately, these crimes all fade away after public attention has 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 canvassing strong campaign from different stakeholders for the removal of fuel subsidy,whereas the root cause of the subsidy frauds has not been dealt with. The government and its 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 petrol 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 N260bn 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 committees with taxpayers’ money and after spending such valuable time and money and arousing public interest, they are left to walk away without visible punishment meted out 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 full subsidy is eventually removed. In other words, until adequate refineries are built in Nigeria, subsidy on petrol is bound to continue.
Center for Social Justice, Abuja
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