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Queues had resur-faced in the country’s capital, Abuja, due to protest by marketers who want to compel the Federal Government to pay what they tagged ‘legitimate claims’ on imported fuel.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, insisted at the weekend that the government would not pay the fuel importers it was investigating for fraud no matter the pressure. Iweala told reporters in Abuja that 21 marketing firms had been indicted so far, and that the indicted marketers were instigating the union workers to stop lifting products from depots.
The Presidential Committee on Fuel Claim Reconciliation, led by Aigboje Aig-Imouk-huede, is verifying all fuel marketers’ claims before the finance ministry could pay them. The verification is still ongoing.
A source within the Ministry of Petroleum, who pleaded anonymity, claimed that after the Farouk Lawan-led committee uncovered $6.8 billion scam in April, importation of refined petroleum products had been done solely by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The Federal Govern-ment recently gave allocation to 41 marke-ters out of over 100 marketers that had been importing fuel before the probe. However, the claim that it was only the NNPC importing what the nation consumes daily could not be confirmed as most marketers refused to talk to the press. The corruption scandal is one of the biggest scandals in Nigeria’s history.
“It is clear that those behind the strikes are marketers being investi-gated for possible fraud, these elements have now resorted to hiding behind the unions to unnecessarily antago-nise government and create hardship for Nigerians. No degree of blackmail will stop the government from doing its work,” Iweala said.
A financial analyst, Dr Layi Bello, opined that the Federal Govern-ment should have paid part of the claims to marketers or pay those that had been cleared because the loan facilities the marketers obtained from banks continue to attract interest.
“Furthermore, the exchange rate fluctua-tions are not favourable to these marketers. Their debt profile would continue to rise and if most of the marketers are indicted and not paid these claims, it will amount to financial crunch to the economy,” he stated.
In a related develop-ment, contrary to reports that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria had been appointed by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke, to lead the prosecution of the embattled member of the House of Representatives, Hon Farouk Lawan, on the alleged $620,000 subsidy scam, the AGF is yet to brief any lawyer in that respect.
According to a legal expert who preferred anonymity, the AGF had been in touch with very senior lawyers but none had confirmed having been briefed to take up the legal battle against the suspect. “Well, whatever is in public domain today may afterall exist in the fertile imagination of authors and originators of the stories. As far as I know, the AGF has not briefed any counsel, I mean prominent Senior Advocate of Nigeria, on the Faroukgate scandal. It’s only when he does that that one can be certain of the dimension the criminal case will take,” he stated.
On when the trial would likely take place in the face of the develop-ment, he said: “How will trial commence when the prime suspect is in Mecca performing the Lesser Hajj? In law, criminal trials are not done in absentia; the accused person must be properly put in the dock, where he will take his guilty or not guilty plea. That is what is called arraignment.”
It will be recalled that Lawan’s “confessional statement” to the police to the effect that the controversial bribe sum was kept with the House committee chairman on Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Hon. Adams Jagaba, has been punctured by Jagaba, who addressed a press conference where he threatened to drag Lawan to court if the latter did not apologise over the “misleading”Share