July 24, 2014

Fuel subsidy fraud: EFCC to arraign indicted oil marketers on Thursday

A Lagos court adjourned on Tuesday the arraignment of the first batch of oil subsidy fraudsters indicted by the House of Representatives, saying the arraignment will continue on Thursday.

It was postponed after some of the suspected fraudulent oil marketers failed to appear in court. The Vanguard reported that only three of the first batch of suspects indicated appeared in court, while one more failed to show up.

The fraudulent oil marketers are being charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the lawyer for the anti-graft agency has asked the court to slate the arraignment for Thursday when the Attorney General of the Federation will make a court appearance.

A total of 20 suspected fraudsters will face charges of oil subsidy fraud. Among the first batch of suspects who appeared in court on Tuesday were Mahmud Tukur, the son of the national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Bamanga Tukur, and managing director of Eterna Oil.

The fuel traders are facing allegations of illegally collecting a combined N11 billion in subsidy payments, but never making any deliveries, the EFCC said in a statement.

Some of the oil fraudsters are from low-level firms, but the EFCC says it is currently investigating over 100 firms.

“The EFCC, has concluded arrangements to prosecute the first batch of suspects implicated in the oil subsidy fraud,” an emailed statement from the government agency said.

“This investigation is massive and extensive and the Commission wishes to reassure Nigerians that every effort will be made to bring all those who defrauded the country in the guise of subsidy for imported fuel to book.”

A parliamentary probe earlier this year uncovered $6.8 billion in subsidy fraud and accused high level politicians of being complicit in illegal fuel subsidy payments. Probes by the EFCC and another by a presidential committee have so far focused on oil firms rather than government officials.

The presidential committee said on Tuesday fuel traders collected $2.38 billion last year in fraudulent subsidy payments.

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