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Fuel scarcity’ll end in nine days –Kachikwu …says he won’t resign, apologises to Nigerians

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The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, appeared before the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) on Tuesday to give reasons for the acute fuel scarcity across the country and the efforts being made by his ministry to resolve the embarrassing situation.

He regretted the situation and apologised to Nigerians, who he said were really going through difficult moments, and promised that the scarcity would end on or before April 7.

Kachikwu said he would not resign from his position as minister and instead asked those who were threatening to stage a protest in Abuja to save their money because he took the appointment to work for his fatherland.

The minister stated, “I will not resign. I am here to do my job. Those who are planning to stage a protest against me in Abuja should save their fuel money because I have a job to do, and I am committed to doing it well.

“I share the pains of Nigerians. I feel that pain every day. I walk the streets and those who are following my trajectories since I resumed office would see that even on Christmas day, I was at the refineries. On Easter Day, I was in Lagos monitoring fuel distribution at the depots.

“I have given 24/7 attention to the problems in this industry, which are unbelievable. I have continued to work with one sole purpose in mind, which is that every problem will have a solution.”

Kachikwu added, “I do apologise if a comment I make jocularly with my friends in the press about not being a magician offends some Nigerians; it wasn’t meant to be. It is a side jocular issue and I did go ahead to explain what needed to be done. I didn’t intend to create this kind of hyperbole that it did.

“Let me admit that I am not a typically experienced politician. I am a technocrat. Some of the phraseologies that I may use, while being acceptable in the arena in which I play, obviously will not be acceptable in the public political arena. If anybody’s sensitivities were offended by that, I totally apologise.”

He attributed the current petrol scarcity to the refusal by the major oil marketers to import, diversion of the product by marketers, pipeline vandalism, panic buying and non-computerisation of the distribution network to monitor trucks.

The minister lamented that since the payment of N600bn subsidy arrears, which the current administration inherited from the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, oil marketers had stopped fuel importation.

The development, he said, had forced the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to overstretch its capacity, human resources and facilities in order to bridge the gap, but that the corporation lacked the immediate capacity to handle the task.

Kachikwu said, “Let me put the reasons for the scarcity in three categories. First, when we came in August, this country had arrears of unpaid subsidy claims that were in excess of N600bn, which were not paid for over a year.

“Progressively, over a period of eight months, prior to my coming on board, people had been staying away from importation not at a heavy level, but by about 10 to 15 per cent of allocations were not being met.

“There was hope that ultimately, if the subsidy regime continued, they would get paid; so, some people continued to import, but by the time we came in, people had reached a breaking point and most of the companies didn’t have the liquidity even to go to the banks and open letters of credit, and that became a major issue.”

He said it was obvious that having cleared the N600bn subsidy claims, the country could no longer continue with the subsidy regime owing to dwindling oil revenue and the fact that monumental frauds were being uncovered in the system.

As of January 1 this year, the minister stated that the country was no longer paying subsidy, saving a cumulative amount of over N1tn in a one year period.

Kachikwu noted, “The second major issue was that once the N600bn subsidy money was paid, the ability of the marketers to import the product became a challenge, because they could not raise letters of credit, and up to this point, that still remains a major issue.

“So, even if they wanted to import, they needed letters of credit and adequate foreign exchange cover. Some of them were owing arrears of liabilities as a result of the commitment I had made on petroleum importation.”

As part of efforts to ensure a lasting solution to the problem, he stated that the nation was setting up for the first time strategic reserves of about two million tonnes to provide products always.

He said these would be operational as from May and would contain between five and seven cargos of fuel per reserve.

Kachikwu said, “Once we do that, we should be away from the incessant fuel crisis that we have.

We expect that between now and about the 6th to the 7th of April, the fuel queues will disappear, the DSDP will begin and the foreign exchange allocation will see us smoothly through the track.

“The refineries will be working and the volumes they will be producing will be sent to the strategic reserves to address difficult times. In April, we are expected to get 150 per cent of the volumes that will be needed. A lot of that will go to storage tanks. Hopefully, that should sort out the problem.”

He said privatisation of the refineries remained the best solution to end the fuel crisis in the country.

 

Source: The Punch

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FCMB Manager Arrested For Hoarding New Naira Notes

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A manager of the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) branch in Osogbo, Osun State capital, has been arrested for allegedly preventing Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) loaded with cash from dispensing money to customers.

The spokesperson of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission (ICPC), Azuka Ogugua, in a statement on Friday said the cash bundles were loaded into the ATMs while still wrapped, and as such, could not be dispensed through the machines

“The ICPC Compliance Team in Osogbo has busted an FCMB in Osogbo, Osun State, where some ATMs were loaded with cash with their wrappers un-removed, thus preventing the cash from being dispensed.

“The Team, therefore, directed that the wrappers be removed, and the cash loaded properly’.

Similarly, seven Point of Sale (POS) operators as well as a security guard were arrested during the ongoing exercise in Osun State for charging exorbitant commissions for cash.

Investigations, however, revealed that they got the money from Filling Stations that collect new notes from fuel buyers, but they then resell the cash to the public at exorbitant rates.

The arrested persons are helping the Commission with information to assist investigations and bust any syndicates involved in the hoarding or sales of the redesigned notes.

 

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New naira: ICPC arrests Stanbic IBTC Bank manager over sabotage

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The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), has arrested an official of Stanbic IBTC Bank in Abuja for alleged sabotage.

The ICPC spokesperson, Azuka Ogugua, said the development was in continuation of ICPC’s clampdown on elements frustrating efforts in making the redesigned Naira notes available to members of the public.

The bank official, who is the branch service head of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Deidei Branch in Abuja, was taken into custody for her deliberate refusal to upload cash into the branch’s Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) even when the cash was available and people were queuing at the ATM points.

The statement reads: “When the ICPC monitoring team stormed the bank at about 1:30pm on Friday to ensure compliance, and demanded explanation as to why all the ATMs were not dispensing cash, the team was informed by the branch’s head of operations that the bank just got delivery of the cash.

“However, facts available to the ICPC operatives indicated that the branch took delivery of the cash earlier around 11:58am and either willfully or maliciously refused to feed the ATMs with the cash.

“Against this backdrop, the ICPC team compelled the bank to load the ATMs with the redesigned Naira notes and ensured that they were all dispensing before arresting the culprit.

“The ICPC said investigations were still ongoing and the Commission will take appropriate actions as soon they are concluded.

“Similarly, seven Point of Sale (PoS) operators as well as a security guard were arrested during an ongoing exercise in Osun State for charging exorbitant commissions for cash.

“Investigations, however, revealed that they got the money from Filling Stations that collect new notes from fuel buyers, but they then resell the cash to the public at exorbitant rates.

“The arrested persons were helping the anti-graft commission with information to assist investigations and bust other syndicates involved in the hoarding and sales of the redesigned Naira notes,” the anti-graft agency said.

 

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N24Billion Fraud: Appeal Court Okays Trial Of Ex-Accountant General, Otunla, After Refunding N6.4 Billion To Nigerian Government

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The Court of Appeal in Abuja has set aside the judgment of a lower court barring the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from initiating either civil or criminal proceedings against former Accountant-General of the Federation, AG-F, Jonah Oguniyi Otunla.

In a judgment, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal marked: CA/A/657/2021, on Monday, January 30, 2023, held that Otunla failed to prove that there was actually a non-prosecution agreement between him and the EFCC.

The court upheld the arguments of the lawyer for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Sylvanus Tahir, SAN, and resolved the four issues, identified for determination, in favour of the Commission.

 

Justice Danlami Senchi, who read the judgment, noted that Otunla did not provide any written commitment, except his words and that of his lawyer, that such an agreement existed.

Justice Senchi held that Otunla could not halt his prosecution by merely claiming that there was an agreement, which existence he failed to establish with any credible evidence.

 

“In the instant case, there is no evidence to support the pleading of the respondent (Otunla) that he will not be prosecuted; that criminal or civil proceedings should not be instituted or initiated against him.

“There is no plea bargain or any documentary evidence relating to the President Panel for the Recovery of Funds. On the whole, the appeal is meritorious and it is allowed. The judgment of the Federal High Court, in suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/2321/2021 delivered on the 16th day of July 2021 delivered by honourable Justice I. E. Ekwo is hereby set aside,” he said.

 

Other members of the panel – Justices Stephen Adah and Elfreda Williams-Daudu – agreed with the lead judgment.

The EFCC investigated Otunla in relation to two cases: The alleged diversion of about N24 billion meant for disengaged staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and the N2 billion allegedly received from the office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA.

 

In July 2021, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja upheld Otunla’s claim of an existing verbal agreement between him and the then-acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, that he would not be prosecuted if he made a refund to the Federal Government.

Justice Ekwo, in the 2021 judgment on the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/2321/2021 filed by Otunla, held among others, that, in view of the assurance given to him by Magu, which informed his refund of the money, he could no longer be prosecuted for his actions while in office between 2011 and 2015.

 

Otunla had, in an affidavit, claimed that Magu promised him that he would not be prosecuted should he return funds traced to him and companies linked to him and his associates.

He stated that sometime in 2015, he was invited by a team of EFCC investigators to probe the alleged diversion of funds from the office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, and the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, pension funds. Otunla said he later met with Magu, in the course of the investigation, when the then acting EFCC chair told him in person to “refund the monies linked to your companies and nobody will prosecute you.”

 

He said, based on Magu’s promise, he had a reconciliatory meeting with the team of investigators, where he immediately undertook to make available some funds as refunds.

In line with the agreement, Otunla said one of the companies linked to him – Stellar Vera Development Ltd – refunded N750 million, another company – Damaris Mode Coolture Ltd – refunded N550 million, while the two firms later made an additional joint refund of N2,150,000,000.00 (Two billion, One Hundred and Fifty Million Naira only).

 

He added at a point, he raised several managers’ cheques for N10 million in favour of the EFCC, which he handed to the Economic Governance Section.

Otunla said, in all, he made a refund of N6,392,000,000.00 (Six Billion, Three Hundred and Ninety-Two Million Naira only) to the Federation Account through the EFCC.

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