News24

Nigeria to investigate fuel subsidy graft

2012-05-22 22:05

Abuja - Nigeria's justice minister vowed on Tuesday to probe those implicated in a parliamentary report detailing billions of dollars lost through a graft-ridden fuel subsidy programme, as the government faced pressure to act.

After receiving the report that found $6.8 bn were lost from 2009 to 2011, Justice Minister Mohammed Adoke said he would "prosecute all those who are found culpable".

"There will be no scared cows," Adoke told journalists. "Get it clear: we are going to do our job without intimidation."

The report compiled by a parliamentary panel and released last month charged that a fuel subsidy programme designed to keep petrol prices low was plagued by gross mismanagement and massive corruption.

It heavily criticised Nigeria's state oil firm, NNPC, and called for it to be restructured.

President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the justice ministry to investigate and prosecute wherever the evidence allows, Adoke said.

"We are not going to witch-hunt anybody. We are going to do this without sentiments and whoever is found guilty, we are going to arraign him before a court of law," he pledged.

The country's anti-graft police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, will carry out the investigation, he said.

The report described the subsidy programme as riddled with poor accounting, overpayments, wilful disregard for regulations and incompetent management.

Nigeria imports fuel

The House of Representatives has endorsed the bulk of the panel's report, but backing from lawmakers carries no force of law and allegations must be investigated by authorities.

The inquiry has gripped Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and the world's eighth-largest crude producer.

Despite its vast reserves, Nigeria imports much of its fuel due to a lack of refining capacity, a situation also blamed on corruption and mismanagement.

In order to keep prices low at the pump, the government pays subsidies to fuel importers. Many Nigerians, the majority of whom live on less than $2 per day, see low petrol prices as their only benefit from the nation's oil wealth.

Citing corruption among other issues, Jonathan sought to end the subsidy programme without warning on January 1.

The move instantly caused petrol prices to more than double, resulting in mass protests and a week-long general strike that was called off when the subsidy was partially re-instituted.