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FUEL SUBSIDY SCAM: ONE YEAR AFTER THE MOTION RAISED; …….. HOW FAR, SO FAR?

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It's exactly one year since of the greatest fraud in the history of Nigeria was uncovered by the motion moved by Dr Bukola Saraki during one of the plenary sessions at the Senate. The move was necessitated by the announcement to withdraw the existing subsidy on the Nations most priced asset-PMS, as the government could no longer bear the rising debt and the depletion of the savings in the federation account being paid as subsidy yearly. This followed a swift move by the Kwara State ex-governor Dr Bukola Saraki to initiate a motion seeking an investigation into how N240 billion budgeted for the 2011 Appropriate Act for fuel subsidy was utilized.

The new fuel price announced on the new year day by President Goodluck Jonathan closed the old price regime to herald a new chapter in the history of a nation ready to showcase an unwavering oddity and a monumental sacrifice to correct ills, until the gods of the land accede to its demands. It was indeed a provocation of mass resistance too hard to swallow.The economy was paralysed for business activities while human movements was reduced to a gathering of artisan,professionals and non professionals in a carnival-like manner. Here comes the truce, the king-makers after several deliberations decided to play down the cards, tossing different variety of bananas to examine which will best suit its citizenry. After much dithering, the price was finally pegged at N97 per litre.

That ended the long soap opera shortly after one of the main characters the - NLC died prematurely. All these dramas didn’t deter the determination to debate, analyse, and expose the few majority feeding fat at the expense of over 162,470,737 Million unsuspecting Nigerians. Different committees set up by the house members and the federal government subsequently swung into action with a promise to do a thorough investigation in the interest of all Nigerians. True to their words, names of highly placed socialites and a retinue of public officers, filled the national dailies and hope of a brighter tunnel was immediately rekindled among Nigerians who were grateful to Dr Bukola Saraki for putting country first before self. The bigwigs soon began to run helter-skelter, some of his colleagues went as far as questioning the Senator’s rationale behind the subsidy probe. One of the brief responses of his I could recollect is “ The Subsidy probe is more than the fuel subsidy” and today that statement has been hugely justified, except perhaps you live in the “Pluto”.

Exactly a year since the motion was raised for this inglorious discovery, the petroleum industry has now regained some sanity and the implication of this probe is that more Nigerians now have a grasps of the shenanigans going on in the oil industry as opposed to the cruel dark years where the common information was shrouded in secrecy, thus demystifying the accounting and auditing system of the petroleum industry. This would go a long way as one of the major landmarks made by the legislative arm courtesy of Sen. Bukola Saraki doggedness who acted in pursuant to Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 constitution, which empowers the National Assembly to probe any sector of the country’s economy, to ensure that corruption was exposed and waste of public funds check. One of the big poser raised by the Dr Bukola Saraki was the observation of an upward swing in the first three months of the 2011 budget year, where NNPC and Independent Marketers did not exceed N62billion monthly, but wondered why within the last three months, the figures had ranged between N159 billion and N186 billion. This finding further exposed the various degrees of sharp practices and shoddy operations within the system. Before this time about, the Fuel Subsidy Report has finally affirmed the suspicion that Nigerians have had over the poor accounting and auditing systems in the Nigerian oil industry. Prior to the subsidy motion raised, no one cared to know the exact amount the country earns from crude oil. But today most Nigerians are willing to be the judges. Prior to the subsidy motion raised, our refineries have not worked for ten years, but now the refinery is getting the much needed face lift, recently the FG has announced an additional N251 billion on repairs of three refineries with future plans to build new ones.

Prior to the subsidy motion raised, illegal oil bunkers' and pipeline vandals usually enjoy a full day at the creek, but now pipeline vandalization has drastically reduced; being the easiest and cheapest means of transporting petroleum products. Prior to the subsidy motion raised, oil smuggling was part of the oil business, the probe extended to the custom office has helped to reduce and checkmate this practice to curb wasteful processes that accounted for the largest part of payment of unsolicited subsidy removed. Prior to the subsidy raised, the PPPRA and the NNPC operated in their own world independently, fixing prices, no transaction invoicing records, double deductions by the NNPC and excessive withdrawal from the crude account, but today, the committee has recommended a refund totalling N1,067,040,456,171.31 to the treasury by both organizations and other companies indicted with an order to publish henceforth, the PSF accounts on a quarterly basis to ensure transparency and openness of the subsidy Scheme. These are but a few consequences of the oil subsidy probe – a blessing not only to this generation but the generation unborn.

With a sum as large as 1.3 Trillion Naira and in excess pocketed yearly by the few “privileged’ Nigerians, we can have no complaints about being stagnant as far as development is concerned. These cabals over the years somehow have denied us access to good health facilities, Our infrastructures remain dilapidated, the roads are not safe for distance travels, and the illiteracy level is quite alarming. Just name the sector, you will see subsidy scam (in its effect) reeling all over the place. The anti-graft body is yet to conclude the investigation. Interestingly, several arrests have been made in connection with the subsidy fraud. On July 2012 the EFCC arraigned 25 oil marketers for investigations and they were subsequently charged to court. Similarly, on the 5th of October another set of 10 marketers suspected in the ongoing trials were arrested with a promise that more heads will roll, pending the conclusion of their scrutiny. These are indeed the benefits of the struggle started a year ago by Senator Bukola Saraki representing Kwara Central and wholeheartedly supported by all Nigerians.

The aftermath of the subsidy protest and the probe regime signalled the end of the drone and passive days where Nigerians fold their arms to issues of national interest. The lessons are there for us to learn, with the continuous engagement of public office holders to ensure credibility and accountability in government we will do ourselves a lot of good to ensure better representation. The freedom of information Act is there to our advantage to inquire into how we are being governed. We need to start asking questions, why they (elected leaders) take some decisions and of what benefit to the populace. Only then can we free ourselves from economic backwardness. As far as the petroleum industry regime in Nigeria is concerned, the die is cast and the centre stage awaits the men of honour with guts.

Written By Wale Bakare

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