Two independent oil marketers have been accused of stealing 100 million litres of premium motor spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol belonging to the Federal Government.
According to reports, the product is said to have disappeared in the storages of the oil marketing companies leased by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) without return of the value of the stolen product.
Already, the Senate has directed the NNPC to impose some stringent sanctions on the two independent oil marketers linked with the missing 100 million litres of petrol.
The state-owned oil firm is to carry out punitive measure against the independent marketers not later than the end of this week. The Chairman, Senate Joint Committee on Upstream, Downstream and Gas, Kabiru Marafa, made the disclosure while briefing journalists in Abuja at the weekend. Marafa did not disclose the identities of the oil marketers.
“This committee has established the missing of 100 million litres of PMS from such storage arrangement. We expected NNPC to have taken action against the two companies that carried out the theft. But since it has not, we hereby ordered it to do so immediately, precisely within this week, failure of which we shall make the whole details known to the public,” he threatened.
According to him, all key players in the sector, along with their collaborators who have taken the country for a ride during the period under review, must be brought to book through exhaustive investigation to be conducted soon.
This is not the first time that allegation of outright theft of fuel are made against the NNPC and oil marketers who serve as its contractors in the thruput programme.
Thruput is a third party contract arrangement in which NNPC offloads its imported petroleum products at the depots of oil marketers for bridging and sale to its retail outlets across the country. The NNPC has confirmed awareness of the probe, insisting that it remains highly transparent.
Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of NNPC, Ndu Ughamadu, who said this when New Telegraph sought his corporation’s reaction to the allegation,maintained that the upper legislative chamber knows that investigation on the allegation would be done adequately within a time frame.
“It is an allegation and the Senate, in its wisdom, addressed a press conference to show it,” he said, adding that “the respected upper legislative chamber knows that we will adequately finish our investigation of the allegation in needed time. But I can assure you that the NNPC, under this administration, has remained highly transparent.”
Meanwhile, the Senate said it had uncovered about N10 trillion fraud allegedly perpetrated in the oil sector by the NNPC and some independent oil marketers from 2006 till date.
Marafa said that the joint committee would go into a thorough and holistic investigation of the alleged fraud, with a view to ascertaining the true state of transactions done in the sector within the period under review.
He explained that the breakdown of the N10 trillion to be investigated is the sum total of the N5.2 trillion of fuel subsidy collected by the NNPC, N3.8 trillion collected by the independent oil marketers and $1.5 billion, which the independent marketers still claimed that government was still owing them.
The investigation is the outcome of the Senate’s resolution on Wednesday last week, when it mandated the joint committee to exhaustively review and investigate the accounts of the NNPC in relation to fuel subsidy and the abuse of product marketing and distribution between 2006 to date.
The Senate had particularly frowned at alleged discrepancies in subsidy payments and non-remittance of funds to the federation accounts by the oil corporation.
Marafa said that President Muhammadu Buhari and the Senate leadership were very much interested in unmasking those behind the scam perpetrated during the administrations of former Presidents Olusegun Obasajo, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and by extension, the present government.
“President Buhari is highly supportive of this move by the Senate and we shall not fail in carrying out the needed holistic investigation on obvious sharp practices in the sector. Needed documents for the onerous task are already in our possession,” he stated. Marafa said that the committee would invite the following category of companies and persons in addition to the NNPC during the investigation: bona fide end users; established and globally recognised large volume product trading companies, indigenous companies engaged in Nigeria oil and gas with trading of petroleum product expertise; product trading brokers and inspection companies.
Others are shipping companies and ships brokers, ships tracking agencies, terminal and tank farm operators, independent providers of energy information and benchmark prices, independent product blenders and leading providers of global background investigative services.
The joint committee chairman also disclosed that the past and present executives and past and present CEOs, heads of operations planning, among others, would be invited for the investigation.
The investigative committee noted that the whistle blower approach, adopted by the executive in unravelling such fraudulent practices of corrupt public officials, would also be adopted in fishing out those involved in the massive fraud. It warned that strict penalties would be applied on invited stakeholders in the sector who might want to frustrate the probe by refusing to honour invitation sent to them or withholding needed information.
His words: “Today, I can announce that our committee is to embark on a unique journey of enquiry that will lead to a better understanding of how NNPC performs its commercial downstream petroleum product purchase, supply, distribution and payment function for and on behalf of Nigerians. “NNPC is the custodian of resources for and on behalf of every Nigerian.
NNPC has been responsible for anything from 51%-100% of Nigeria’s imported petroleum products, yet has failed to justify the near N5.2 trillion spent on subsidy importation products from 2006 to date.
“It is, therefore, essential that we Nigerians better understand and that NNPC, when called upon by our committee, is able to properly account for and provide clarity under scrutiny to the questions we are about to ask.”
Also in attendance at the briefing were the Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Tayo Alasoadura, his counterpart on Gas, Senator Bassey Akpan, Vice Chairmen of the committees and other members of the committees involved in the probe.