SERAP urges Tinubu to probe $2.1bn, N3.1tn unaccounted subsidy payments

THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has charged President Bola Tinubu to set up a presidential panel to probe the missing and unaccounted US$2.1 billion and N3.1 trillion oil revenues budgeted as fuel subsidy payments between 2016 and 2019.

The civil society organisation explained that audited reports published by the Auditor-General of the Federation showed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) failed to remit N663,896,567,227.58 into the Federation Account.

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SERAP stressed there is a need for the Tinubu administration to investigate and prosecute persons responsible for the mismanagement and embezzlement of oil revenues.

A statement released on Saturday, June 4 by deputy director of SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare, said the Tinubu government should be non-partisan, independent, transparent, thorough and non-partisan in probing all fuel subsidy payments made by successive governments since 1999.

The group noted that proceeds recovered from the probe should be deployed as palliatives to address the impact of subsidy removal on poor Nigerians.

“SERAP urged him (Tinubu) to name and shame anyone suspected to be responsible for the alleged widespread and systemic corruption in the use of oil revenues and the management of public funds budgeted as fuel subsidy, and to ensure their effective prosecution as well as the full recovery of any proceeds of crime.

“SERAP urged him to promptly, thoroughly, independently, transparently and effectively probe all fuel subsidy paid by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, and to use any recovered proceeds of crime as palliatives to address the impact of any subsidy removal on poor Nigerians.”

SERAP stressed the need for speedy prosecution of officials who have brought hardship to Nigerians through the embezzlement and mismanagement of oil revenues.

“There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for these serious allegations. There will be no economic growth or sustainability without accountability for these human rights crimes.

“Your government should urgently act to follow due process of law in any policy to remove fuel subsidy, ensure that suspected perpetrators of these crimes against Nigerians are brought to justice, and full recovery of any missing public funds.”

SERAP added that the arbitrary removal of fuel subsidy without addressing outstanding accountability issues in the alleged mismanagement of oil revenues and fuel subsidy payments would be equivalent to impoverishing the poor while the high-profile officials and non-state actors escape justice.

According to SERAP, “Any removal of fuel subsidy should not be used as a ploy to keep the poor in poverty while those who allegedly stole oil revenues and fuel subsidy payments keep their ill-gotten wealth.

“Allegations of corruption in oil revenues and fuel subsidy payments suggest that the poor have rarely benefited from the use and management of the revenues and payments.

“Poor and socio-economically vulnerable Nigerians should not be made to continue to pay the price for the stealing of the country’s oil wealth while state and non-state actors pocket public funds.”

The organisation further advised that the committee which would be set up by the President should comprise impartial individuals with the highest level of integrity.

“The proposed panel should be headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal, and its members should include people with proven professional records, and of the highest integrity that can act impartially, independently, and transparently.

“A comprehensive approach that prioritises accountability and full recovery of missing crude oil and public funds is required to address the problems of the implementation of fuel subsidy since 1999,” the statement added.

SERAP warned that it would drag the Tinubu administration to court if it refused to adopt its recommendations.

Highlighting the missing sums which it wants the President to probe, SERAP noted: “The NNPC reportedly failed to account for the allocation of crude oil to refineries in 2019. 107,239,436.00 barrels of crude oil were lifted as domestic crude without any document. The Auditor-General fears that the crude valued at N55,891,009,960.63 may have been diverted.

“The NNPC in 2019 also failed to remit N1,955,354,671,268.66 and N55,157,702,848.74 of generated revenues into the Federation Account, contrary to Section 162(1) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended). The Auditor-General fears that the money may have been diverted.”

It added that the Auditor-General’s report further pointed out that the NNPC failed to account for N4,572,844,962.25 of ‘domestic gas receipts’ which led to the reduction in the distributable revenue in the Federation accounts.

“The NNPC also in 2019 failed to account for 22,929.84 litres of PMS pumped from refineries and valued at N7,056,137,180.00.

“The NNPC also ‘illegally classified’ 239,800 barrels of crude oil valued at N5,498,045,220 as crude oil losses.”

The statement added that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) failed to remit US$1,278,364,595.49 in revenue to the Federation Account in 2019.

According to the statement, the fund was deducted by the NNPC from the Oil and Gas Royalty assessed by the DPR.

“The DPR in 2019 also deducted N19,840,081.29 as ‘stamp duty’ payments from contractors and consultants, but the DPR instantly paid back the money to the contractors and consultants instead of remitting it to the treasury.

“The DPR in 2019 also paid N137,225,973.35 to contractors and consultants for various contracts and consultancies but failed to deduct stamp duty. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered.

“The DPR also paid N11,856,088,271.92 as salaries for 2019 but failed to deduct N118,560,882.72 as contribution of 1% Industrial Training Fund (ITF). The DPR in 2019 also failed to transfer a US$ 35,738,342.95-year balance. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered and remitted.

“The DPR in 2018 also withdrew without any explanation US$759,387,755.10 from DPR Signature Bonus Account rather than paid the money into the Federation Account,” the statement said.

The statement further revealed that subsidy records showed that N443,940,559,974.80 was paid as total subsidy for 2016 despite lack of provision in the budget.

It noted that the payments were for outstanding Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) commitments for the year 2015.

“However, there was no payment in 2016. Only outstanding payments for previous years 2014 and 2015 and interest payments were made in 2016.

“The Auditor-General fears that the oil marketers that received the subsidy payments may not have been ‘eligible to draw from the Petroleum Support Fund as the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Authority (PPPRA) failed to provide any documentation on the payments.

“N39,141,210,181.74 was also paid from the Federation Account in 2016 to different Oil Marketers in 26 transactions, being Payments of Interest and Foreign Exchange Differential on Subsidy but without any document.”

SERAP noted that the NNPC made ‘zero profit’ and recorded ‘losses from its joint ventures in 2016, contrary to government expectations that profits should be made from the joint ventures.

Also, SERAP noted that the Ministry of Petroleum breached regulation of public procurement by awarding a contract without competitive bidding in 2016.

“The Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Abuja in 2016 paid N14,490,000.00 for the supply of three Nissan Almera Saloon vehicles 1.5 to the Ministry without proper documentation.

“The purchase of the vehicles was made through direct procurement without competitive bidding by at least three companies, as required by Financial Regulations. There was no advertisement and bidding for this contract.

“Although ‘N12,442,500.00 was approved by the Bureau of Public Procurement for the vehicles, the Ministry made an overpayment of N2,047,500.00 to the car company.”

According to SERAP, the immediate investigation, naming and shaming of suspected perpetrators and recovery of any missing public funds would advance the right of Nigerians to restitution, compensation, and guarantee non-repetition of the offences.

“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution imposes clear responsibility on your (Tinubu) government to conform with, observe, and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution. Section 15(5) imposes the responsibility on your government to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse,” the organisation insisted.

Stories with punches holding the powerful accountable. His determination to speak out against corruption and influence the conversation in Nigeria, the surrounding region and the continent inspires him.

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