- Published on Thursday, 05 July 2012 21:42
- Written by Elombah.com
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday created another committee to verify the findings of a committee set up to look into all fuel subsidy payments made in 2011 with a view to punishing fraudsters. This comes 24 hours after his Attorney General filed an affidavit in a court petition saying no one implicated in a $6.8 billion fuel
subsidy corruption scandal will be prosecuted, after allegations the investigator himself took a bribe to manipulate the report.
Jonathan established the verification and reconciliation committee pledging that "no person or organisation guilty of fuel subsidy fraud or corruption will escape justice," a statement from his office said.
The 15-member committee, which includes justice, police and state security officials, is expected to wrap up its task by July 13, the statement said.
It will verify claims in a report by a government technical committee on fuel subsidy payments and "accurately identify all likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation".
The statement said Jonathan would take immediate action "on all identified cases of fraud".
The committee which is headed by Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede has the following terms of reference. include:
1. To further verify and reconcile all claims made in the report of the Technical Committee on Fuel Subsidy Payments;
2. To properly identify all cases of overpayment and/or irregular payment;
3. To accurately identify all likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation and
4. To review any other pertinent issues that may arise from its work and make appropriate recommendations.
Other members of the committee are Dr. Abraham Nwankwo (DG DMO), Mr. Bernard Otti (GED Finance & Accounts, NNPC), Mrs. Oyinye Ahuchogu (CBN), Mrs. Sola David-Borha (MD Stanbic/IBTC, representing the Banking Community), Mr. Mike Osatuyi (National Secretary, IPMAN), Mr. Obafemi Olawore, Mr. Jonah Otunla (Accountant-General of the Federation), Mr. Bright Okogwu (DG, Budget Office), Mr. Reginald Stanley (Executive Secretary, PPPRA), Mrs. Aisha Waziri-Umar and Mr. Jalal Arabi.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of the State Security Service will also be represented on the Committeee.
The popular subsidy programme was designed to keep petrol prices low in Africa's biggest oil producer but was found to be riddled with corruption and mismanagement.
An Ad-hoc panel of the House of Reps earlier this year found that $6.8 billion (5.3 billion euros) were lost between 2009-2011.
Nigerian legislator Farouk Lawan blew the lid on a massive scam in state fuel subsidy payments, exposing a web of fraudulent transactions that enabled corrupt officials and fuel marketers to grow rich, some without delivering a drop of fuel.
But now his committee's report is being called into question over allegations Lawan demanded, and took part of, a $3 million bribe from one of Nigeria's richest oil tycoons to remove him from the list of fraudsters.
Allegations of this $3 million bribe from tycoon Femi Otedola to remove his Zenon oil firm from the probe's report have dominated Nigerian headlines in recent weeks.
Police questioned Lawan last month and another panel, the Ethics Committee is investigating the claims. His lawyer said on Thursday that Lawan took $500,000 offered by tycoon Femi Otedola, but only in order to expose him, saying he disclosed it to parliament and left the cash there.
"The report of the committee will be studied and given to relevant agencies of government but (we) will not prosecute or take legal action against the person or persons indicted by the report," a petition filed by the justice ministry on behalf Attorney General Bello Adoke dated July 3 states.
The move could kill any attempt to seek justice against those implicated in the scandal, an outcome likely to please Nigeria's downstream oil marketers and some corrupt government officials, but enrage the public.
The report fingered several fuel companies, including a local unit of ExxonMobil, as being involved and called for the board of the state oil firm, including its head Oil Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke, to resign.
President Goodluck Jonathan has since sacked and replaced the NNPC but kept Alison-Madueke.
Lawan declined to comment but a lawyer speaking on his behalf said the allegation is a smokescreen.
"Some powerful oil marketers are diverting attention from the main issue, which is the committee's report," he told Reuters by telephone.
Lawan's report was scathing about some of Nigeria's most powerful people - few would dare take on the oil minister - and was an embarrassment to Jonathan, whose office repeatedly pledged to prosecute those implicated but urged patience.
Otedola this week published an alleged audiotaped conversation between him and Lawan, in which the participants make arrangements for the delivery of cash. Lawan says the tape is not his voice but has been doctored to sound like him.