REPORT OF ANEEJ/J4A TOWN HALL MEETING HELD IN ABUJA
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), with support from Justice for All (J4A) organised a town hall meeting on August 13, 2014 at the Vines Hotel, Abuja. The town hall meeting was part of activities of ANEEJ “Advocacy against impunity in oil subsidy regime in Nigeria” project. Over 40 participants drawn from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Civil Society organizations and media attended the town hall meeting.
The meeting reviewed how the Federal government and the anti-corruption agencies have fared so far in the investigation and prosecution of indicted suspects and companies in the fuel subsidy regime. The meeting also looked at steps to be taken to support the EFCC and to put pressure on the federal government to do more to speedily investigate and prosecute persons and companies with a view to bringing them to justice.
In his welcome address, Rev. David Ugolor, ANEEJ Executive Director, welcomed participants to the town hall meeting on the prosecution of fuel subsidy corruption cases. He then explained the purpose of the meeting and noted that the project was a major effort to end impunity in the management of oil subsidy funds in Nigeria.
From left: Newton Otsemaye (J4A), David Ugolor (ANEEJ), Wilson Uwujaren (EFCC) and Peter Ritchie (Agama)
Ugolor recalled how the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on fuel subsidy set up in response to the January 2012 uprising unearthed mind-boggling findings including widespread corruption and mismanagement in the operations and activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries charged with fuel subsidy administration in the country.
He also made reference to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency (NEITI) audit report 2009-2011 which made more startling revelations as it uncovered a disparity of N175.9bn between the subsidy claims paid from the Federation Account and the one made by the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
He lamented the slow pace of investigation and prosecution of fuel subsidy corruption cases and added that at the moment, to the best of our knowledge, no single fuel subsidy corruption cases have been successfully concluded and most Nigerians appear to have even forgotten about the issue or at best left in their parking lots.
He hopped that this project will be used to reawaken our memories and put pressure on our government to ensure that those subsidy cases and other related corruption cases in the oil sector are given due attention and concluded with those found wanting duly punished to serve as deterrent to others.
He used the opportunity thank J4A for supporting this important project as he looked forward to brilliant ideas that would help shape the implementation and ensure that the project goals and objectives are fully realized.
In his goodwill message, Newton Otsemaye of J4A commended the effort of ANEEJ and noted that Justice for All is interested in developing the capacity of civil society organizations to work on anti-corruption issues.
He spent some time to talk about the activities of J4A and added that a lot has happened and Nigerians do not have sufficient information on the progress in the investigation and prosecution of suspects. He concluded by saying that if CSOs ask the right questions, they will be able to get the correct information to engage the process.
Wilson Uwujaren, the head, media and publicity of the EFCC, also gave a goodwill message on behalf of the Commission, where he commended the effort of ANEEJ and J4A in the fight against corruption in Nigeria. He mentioned that the Commission will welcome any public initiative that will support the anti-corruption effort of EFCC. He briefly reviewed activities of the Commission as it relates to what they have done since 2012 as it relates to the fuel subsidy corruption cases.
Wilson Uwujaren, head, media and publicity Unit of the EFCC giving a goodwill message at the town hall meeting. To his right is Rev. David Ugolor and to his left is Peter Ritchie.
He mentioned that 13 cases have been charged to court so far while N5bn have also been recovered from suspects. Other cases are still been investigated. He noted that the investigation and prosecution of fuel subsidy corruption cases have not been too easy for the commission given the king of people involved in the cases. In a single case, you sometimes have up to five Senior Advocates of Nigeria as defense counsel, while the EFCC does not have the resources to engage such services.
The defense lawyers have so far been employing several delay tactics and so, that the cases have dragged on for such a long time is not really the fault of EFCC.
He concluded by saying that the Commission now has a unit focused on the oil sector and that the EFCC is looking for genuie partnership to fight corruption in Nigeria.
Peter Ritchie gave a background presentation on fuel subsidy fraud where he went memory lane into the origin of the issue. He stated that the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) Scheme was legislated in 2005, commenced in January 2006 and intended to end volatility of supply and stabilise domestic prices. The enabling Act entrench transparency and accountability in the administration of the subsidy which provides for institutional linkages in the management of subsidy as follows:
• DPR grants import licences to marketers
• PPPRA grants supply quota to marketers; appointed auditors account and verify quantities and value
• Nigerian Navy gives clearance for tankers
• Nigerian Customs issues clearance to discharge
• Nigerian Ports Authority levies administration charges
• PEF to ensure products are received at destinations
• Ministry of Finance authorises payments
• Central Bank of Nigeria payment confirmation and remittance
• Debt Management Office guarantees payment and issues Sovereign Debt Notes
He made reference to the payments made from the Petroleum Support Fund and the several reports on the management of fuel subsidy and their findings. Some of the reports include;
• Report on the Administration of the PSF (PPPRA, July 2008) which noted volatile prices, the non release of funds by CBN and OM&Ts lack of confidence
• Interim Report on the Process and Forensic Review of NNPC (Ministry of Finance / KPMG 10 November 2010), which revealed non compliance with Policies and Procedures
• NEITI Audit (2009 – 2011), also noted disparity of N179 billion between PPPRA and Federation Account
• House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee (18 April 2012) had the following observations;
– Entire Process fraught with endemic corruption and entrenched inefficiency
– Wide accounting discrepancies between PPPRA, CBN and OAGF
– Identified FOREX and Income Tax infringements
– Revenues owed to government agencies including FIRS, Nigerian Customs, Nigerian Ports Authority
Recommended the Standing Committees be more proactive in their oversight responsibilities
• Technical Committee (Ministry of Finance, June 2012), recommended a Forensic Review of OM&Ts.
Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force (NNPC/Ribadu Committee , August 2012), recommended an independent review of the use of Oil Trading and Marketing companies and also create a special Oil and Gas Sector Financial Crimes Unit
• Presidential Committee (November 2012) revealed that 196 transactions were not verified totalling N232 billion involving 50 OM&Ts.
He concluded by making reference to the effort of EFCC and Special Fraud Unit of the Nigerian Police in the investigation and prosecution of indicted suspects. He also mentioned the role of the media and civil society organisation in the entire process.
In the discussions that ensued, participants made the following comments/observations:
• Agreed that the oil marketers have plenty of money to play around with and that there is a bill called Assert Recovery Bill that J4A is currently pursuing at the National Assembly. Want CSOs to follow up with the bill as if it is passed, it could rip off proceed of crime from these fuel subsidy thieves.
• J4A has done a lot in terms of crime investigation and prosecution, stakeholders should also be thinking of crime prevention.
Some participants in a group photograph
• The reason why EFCC lose some cases is because they have not been using procurement experts to follow up on the issues.
• Donors should look at going beyond prosecutions and engage CSOs to understand and follow up with the issues.
• The presidential Committee recommended that the EFCC and SFU should handle the fuel subsidy corruption cases.
• Some argued that there is lack of political will to follow up with the cases, others opined that the matter does not concern political will that it is just the slow pace of justice delivery system in Nigeria.
• Participants decried the delay tactics being employed by legal practitioners to slow down the prosecution of fuel subsidy corruption cases.
• The ACAs should take their time to do a thorough investigation before arrest and arraignment.
• In order to avoid pressure from the masses, the ACAs should feed the public with information on the progress in these cases.
• Some of the evidence that comes with some of these cases are not what the court can use. There should be a platform where judges, EFCC prosecutors and management team of ACAs and the Ministry of Justice can come together to work out how these cases can move faster.
• EFCC should begin to lease with Chief Justices for the purpose of evolving improved criminal procedure rules.
In a brief response, Wilson Uwujaren from EFCC noted that the Commission is better off now than when they started as no singles fuel subsidy case has been lost. He wondered why several human rights layers try to defend fuel subsidy suspects. He then promised to review all the cases and send the dates of hearing for participants to be able to attend courts if they so desire.
Thereafter, there was group work where participants agreed on some steps to be taken to put pressure on the government to do more to bring fuel subsidy corruption suspects to justice and to also support the work of EFCC and CSOs. The outcome of the group work and other discussions is captured in a communiqué which is presented below.
Some participants at the town hall meeting doing group work.
COMMUNIQUE/RESOLUTIONS AT THE END OF A TOWN HALL MEETING ON MONITORING AND REPORTING OIL SUBSIDY FRAUD/CORRUPTION CASES IN NIGERIA
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), with support from Justice for All (J4A), organized a town hall meeting on August 13, 2014 at the Vines Hotel, Abuja. The town hall meeting was part of activities of ANEEJ “Advocacy against impunity in oil subsidy regime in Nigeria” project. Over 40 participants drawn from Anti-corruption Agencies (ACAs), media, Civil Society, and academia attended the town hall meeting.
The meeting reviewed the how the Federal government and the anti-corruption agencies have fared so far in the investigation and prosecution of indicted suspects in the fuel subsidy regime and also focused on the implication of fuel subsidy malpractice on livelihood of Nigerians. The meeting also looked at steps to be taken to put pressure on the federal government to do more to speedily investigate and prosecute persons and companies to justice, as well as how best civil society organizations can support the EFCC to deliver on the mandate.
The town hall meeting noted the following:
• The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigeria Police are facing challenges in the delivering on their mandate as it relates to oil subsidy fraud/corruption cases.
• The budgetary allocation to the EFCC has continued to decline over the years and this has impacted negatively on the capacity of the Commission to effectively pursue their cases.
• That the slow pace of prosecution of suspects by the courts has resulted in serious delay as no single conviction have been secured, more than two years after the 2012 uprising, thereby fueling speculations that those involved in the fraud may sooner or later escape justice.
• Participants noted the insufficient information flow between the government, the EFCC and the general public relating to fuel subsidy fraud and corruption investigation and prosecution since January 2012 till date.
In the light of the above, the town hall meeting made the following resolutions as action plan for effective engagement with the investigations and prosecutions of subsidy corruption cases.
A. In order to Put Pressure on the Federal Government to do more to bring the Indicted persons/Companies to Justice, there is the need;
1. To mainstream the fight against economic and financial crimes into electioneering debate by getting aspirants to make commitment on how they will support the speedy prosecution of fuel subsidy cases and other corruption cases and other financial crimes.
2. To advocate for an amendment to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act of 2004 to create Special Courts that will speedily try Fuel Subsidy Corruption cases and other financial crimes.
3. For civil society organizations including the Nigeria Bar Association and the general public to engage in public interest litigation.
4. For strategic use of the media beyond the shores of Nigeria by putting the issue in the front burner especially the use of social media.
B. To support the effort of EFCC
1. Civil society organizations should advocate for financial independence for the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies.
2. There is the need for civil society organizations such as the Nigeria Bar Association, NGOs and even Individuals to provision Prono Bono Services to the EFCC through the introduction of Lawyers’ Volunteer Programme (LVP).
3. CSOs to carry out independent investigations and make such information available to EFCC to assist them in their prosecution.
4. The Judiciary should treat the handling of fuel subsidy fraud and corruption matters expeditiously.
5. Civil Society Organsations monitoring the fuel subsidy corruption cases should liaise with the CSO desk at the EFCC to receive progress reports on prosecution of cases and widely disseminate such information among the public.
6. CSOs to engage in more whistle blowing activities and petitioning on fuel subsidy crimes by providing EFCC with information that will assist them in their prosecution.
7. There should be an EFCC-CSOs Forum or coalition for coordinated engagement on Fuel Subsidy corruption.
8. EFCC to ensure its website is active and up-to-date and to incorporate an interactive feature where the public can contribute to the discussion and/or issue on fuel subsidy corruption.
C. Support to CSOs
That CSOs working on the fuel subsidy issues and other financial and economic crimes should be supported with training on regular basis by donor agencies to build their capacity in meeting with the challenges of economic and financial crimes.
At the end of the town hall meeting, the EFCC agreed to provide information to CSOs on all the cases currently being prosecuted in court and the recoveries that have so far been made.
1. Rev. David Ugolor, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ)
2. Mohammed Attah, Procurement Advocacy and Observation Initiative
3. Lukman Adefolahan, Zero Corruption Coalition
4. Barr. Kingsley Nnajiaka, Center for Social Justice
5. Victoria Ose Udoh, Centre for Democracy and Development
6. Frank Tietie, Citizen’s Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights
7. Osasah Monday, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD)
ANEEJ/J4A town hall meeting on Advocacy against impunity in the oil subsidy regime in Nigeria on Monitoring and Reporting of Fuel Subsidy Corruption Cases
13th August, 2014 @ Vines Hotel, Abuja, 10am – 1pm
1. Arrival and registration
3. Welcome address
– by Rev. David Ugolor, ANEEJ Executive Director
4. Goodwill Messages
– J4A, EFCC, OTHERS
5. Fuel Subsidy Fraud Background – Peter Ritchie
6. A review of how the prosecution of fuel subsidy cases have fared so far
7. Group work – What steps can we take to:
– put pressure on the Federal government to do more to bring indicted
persons/companies to justice
– support the effort of the EFCC