Trials of suspected oil thieves in Nigeria
By Emmanuel Udom
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has dragged 140 prominent persons and 25 companies involved in oil marketing business to various courts in Nigeria.
These persons and companies accused of allegedly obtaining money running into billions of naira from the federal government with forged documents and fake lading bills are presently standing trials in the subsidy payment fraud.
In my honest opinion, I think the on-going trial is proper, legitimate, acceptable and therefore a welcome development in a country that is deeply enmeshed in corruption.
It is one of the many trials that could either make or mar the President Goodluck Jonathan regime, as far as his dream of transforming the country, widely regarded as the giant of Africa is concerned.
EFCC has said that the suspects are among the over 140 individuals and organizations involved in the on-going investigations into the subsidy payments by the EFCC, insisting that more suspects will be arraigned periodically as the investigation progresses.
However, independent checks by this reporter revealed that these persons and companies are accused of raking in money running into billions in naira and other foreign currencies, through fraudulently obtaining various sums of money from the Petroleum Support Fund with respect to certain quantities of Premium Motoring Spirit, after allegedly forging bills of lading and other important documents in carrying out the frauds.
For instance, Tukur, Alex, Alao and Eternal Oil and Gas are accused of allegedly obtained a total sum of N676.9m from the Federal Government fraudulently, purporting same to be subsidy payment accruing to Eterna Oil on April 28, 2011 in Lagos.
The anti- graft agency also said that their claims of purchasing 33,288,388 litres of PMS from Mercury Energy Trading AS and imported same to Nigeria through Ex-QMT Fulmer, Ex-MT Emirates ZStar and Ex-MTPanther, were false and unfounded.
Yes, the national chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, Mahmud Tukur, whose son is implicated in the allege subsidy fraud has told those who cared to listen that his son is on his own.
The presidency on the other hand has also come out to say that though it is unfortunate that the son of the PDP chairman is accused by EFCC of allegedly defrauding the federal government, the trial should go on.
It is difficult at this time to guess whether or not Tukur is talking as an average politician in Nigeria, whose word does not tally with his deed, or he is dead serious about not interfering directly or indirectly on the ongoing trial of his son. Time has a way of revealing our true motives and intentions.
It was Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, minister of finance, who lamented recently in Lagos that the country loses $5bilion every day from the unpatriotic and criminal activities of oil thieves. Okonjo Iweala, who is also the coordinating Minster of the Nigerian economy, knows where the shoe pinches.
Illegal bunkering business is not for the chicken hearted. It is lucrative, booming, daring, well organized and sophisticated with good returns on investments.
On the other side of the same coin, the business is criminal, unpatriotic and therefore run by those regarded as economic saboteurs. The wealthy, famous and powerful members of our society are involved in this expensive business.
Therefore, it is left for President Goodluck Jonathan to eventually write his name in gold, by marching his non interference word with action in the ongoing trial of these suspected big time oil thieves.
Losing $5bilion dollar every day to oil thieves certainly translate to trillions of naira and foreign currencies every year, even as ordinary Nigerians on the streets are praying, hoping and yeaning for democracy dividends promised them by the federal government.