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Indigenous oil firm, Oando Plc., has absolved itself from any act of graft in the receipt of refunds (subsidy payments by the Federal Government) for petroleum products imported and sold to consumers in Nigeria.

A statement by the company issued over the weekend, while absolving the firm from any fraudulent act in the fuel subsidy scheme, however, noted that the company received the highest reimbursement of funds from the Federal Government under subsidy scheme as it had the highest network of filling stations and retail facilities and, as such, dispensed fuel to more consumers than any other operator in the industry.

Said Oando: 'On the huge amount Oando has received as subsidy reimbursement, Oando is a leading player in the sector, with over 500 retail outlets across Nigeria, eight strategically located terminals (combined capacity of over 150 billion litres) and over 1,980 trucks through partnership, and invariably responsible for fuelling one in every five cars on Nigerian roads, it should not be surprising that Oando is one of the largest claimants under the PSF scheme.'

The statement quoted the Group Chief Executive of the company, Mr. Wale Tinubu as however acknowledging that the management of the subsidy scheme was not without some irregularities which could have provided an opening for the alleged fraud in the industry. Tinubu also said he had submitted several letters on behalf of the Oando Group to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) pointing out the flaws in the administration of the subsidy scheme.'Over the years we have submitted several letters to the PPPRA management as to the way and manner the guidelines in our opinion were abused,' Tinubu was quoted in the statement.

'Companies that were registered in 24 hours will get allocations and companies that have no assets are allowed to be involved in the scheme.'Oando has championed the cause against 'interest groups' within the industry through several complaints written to Government. He said that Lowering of standards by PPPRA in part contributed to the emergence of briefcase companies.'For instance a case in point is a change in the guidelines of the PSF; in particular Part V, in 2007, which allowed companies with nothing more than a throughput agreement to operate under the PSF as against the ownership of storage facilities and distribution capacity.

'Oando has been a leading advocate for the removal of subsidy owing to it its burden on our resources which should have been used to improve our critical infrastructure,' the statement added. Tinubu, who personally appeared before the House of Representatives' Ad-hoc Committee investigating the subsidy scheme, last week, said the company was 'a claimant in the Petrol Support Fund scheme and not a beneficiary as widely reported.'

Tinubu decried the blanket insinuations that all the marketers and importers of petroleum products have constituted themselves into fraudulent beneficiaries of the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF). According to him, Nigerians are the beneficiaries of the fuel subsidy, while the scheme only reimburses the marketers for the differential in the landing cost of fuel and the government stipulated pump price.