The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), with support from Justice for All (J4A) organized an inception workshop for “Advocacy against Impunity in the Oil Subsidy Regime in Nigeria project”, on Wednesday, 26th February, 2014, at Denis Hotel Abuja. The workshop had over 35 participants in attendance which cut across Anti graft Agencies (EFCC and ICPC), Civil Society Organizations, Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Media both print and electronic, Project Consultants, who represented their organizations from different parts of the country.
The purpose of the inception meeting was to present project goals and objectives to stakeholders as well as detailed participants role, raise public awareness about general and specific cases of corruption and malpractice in the Oil and Gas Sector and put pressure on government to do more to bring perpetrators to justice.
In the opening speech, of the Executive Director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Rev. David Ugolor, commended participants for honouring ANEEJ invitation to the event and went ahead to state the purpose of the meeting. He also stated the purpose of the entire workshop, adding that one of the expected outcomes of the project is to generate sufficient report that would detail malpractice and indictments in the fuel subsidy regime and also benchmark anti corruption efforts of stakeholders and provide two detailed case studies that would help illustrate good methodologies and case management. He also made reference to the findings of the House of Representative Ad Hoc committee on fuel subsidy set up in response to the January 2012 uprising which unearthed mind-boggling findings, including widespread corruption and mismanagement in the operations and activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and It’s subsidiaries in the subsidy regime.
He also made reference to the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) audit report 2009 – 2011, which made more startling revelations as it uncovered a disparity of #175.9bn between the subsidy claim paid from the federation account and the one made by the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
He concluded by again thanking all participants for honouring ANEEJ invitation and for their commitment to ending the culture of impunity in the oil and gas sector. He expressed gratitude to J4A for support the project and indeed anti-corruption effort in Nigeria.
Mr. Emmanuel Uche of J4A contributed by stressing the important need of a collaborative effort by all stakeholders to help strengthen an available means of information analysis that will bring about the exposure of agencies such as the Judiciary, Anti Corruption Agencies and Senior Advocates of Nigeria whom were all indicted in the chain of oil Subsidy Scam. He added the need for the project to take giant steps in naming and shaming indicted officials and following up cases in black and white for society to see what is happening in the oil sector.
Mr. Peter Ritchie, gave critical analysis of the origin of the fuel subsidy and the role played by various agencies of government in ensuring checks and balances. According to him, the principal aim of the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) which was legislated in 2005 and commenced in January 2006, is to provide stability of prize and end volatility of supply also entrench transparency and accountability in the administration of the subsidy .The DPR grants import licenses to Oil Marketing and Trading Companies (OMTC), appoint auditors who verify the imported products. The custom on their part issue clearance to discharge, the Navy gives clearance for tankers. The Petroleum Equalizing Funds (PEF) ensures that products are received at targeted destination. The Ministry of Finance then authorized payment. While the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) confirms the payments and make remittance. The Debt Management Office (DMO) guarantees payment and issue Sovereign Debt Note. Irrespective of the enormous procedures of checks and balancing of the subsidized products, he noted that in June 2012 the technical committee, ministry of finance, recommended a forensic review of OM&Ts, leading to the formation of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force involving the NNPC/Ribadu Committee in August 2012.The forensic review of the committee recommended the creation of special Oil and Gas sector Financial Crimes Unit. Been that the entire process was fraught with endemic corruption and entrenched inefficiency, not enough resources and capacity between EFCC and Special Fraud Unit in tackling the crime.
Finally, he showed instances of delays in prosecution of offenders and the need for the correct expertise to go through paper work with well organized and established facts and go to court to prosecute the cases. He also fault the plea bargain rule, acquisition of top attorneys and accountants by oil theft perpetrators, as major causes of impunity in oil industry.
Some participant among other things;
- Raised the issue of unwillingness of public office holders, private establishments to cooperate or assist with useful information and in some cases some information withheld and the non existence of up-to-date data, as the difficulties faced by investigative journalist and researchers and a direct cause of discrepancies and lack of robust information that are reported.
- Mentioned the tactics of delay of fuel subsidy trials by prosecutors and the access to funds, acquisition of top attorneys and accountants by the involved Oil Marketing and Trading Companies, asking stake holders to build pressure based on established evidence which overtime could discourage such unnecessary delays.
- Tasked the Media to indulge in deep interaction that encompass views of members of the public and capture the enormity of the problem. Sighting the value system which does not make people to understand the implications of corruption and the importance of capacity training of media workers by stakeholders on investigative journalism and the ability to assemble effective and informative report with substantiating evidence that is capable of raising public awareness and pressure government to do more to bring perpetrators to justice.
The participants later went into group session to discuss three items and make recommendation on how to proceed on some aspect of the project such as legal understanding, monitoring prosecutions as well as reporting and advocacy. They were ask to present at least five recommendations each.
The following represent their contributions;
1. Legal understanding
- Build the capacity of investigators
- Judges to be trained
- Lawyers research and training
- Strengthen capacity of ACAs
- Advocacy for increased funding(of ACAs)
2. Monitoring prosecutions
- Assessment of internal monitoring
- Empowering fuel subsidy unit (EFCC)
- Building on existing interfaces
- Empowering CSO and media on tracking prosecutions
- Evaluation of institutions
- Understanding framework
- Develop skills and research
- Technical training
- Identify gaps and loopholes
- Online resource
3. Reporting and advocacy
- Train investigative reporters
- Use social media platforms
- Identify and strengthen media partners
- Cooperation in media advocacy between CSO and ACA
- Process linking different elements
- Training on Freedom of Information Act
- Breakdown complex issues into simple language
- Support for specialization
- Change attitudes
After the meeting, ANEEJ Executive Director, Rev. David Ugolor addressed the press on the project and the inception meeting.