Nigeria arraigns eight fuel subsidy fraud suspects

ABUJA Sat Oct 6, 2012 4:36am EDT

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned eight suspects on Friday in connection with part of a multi-billion dollar fraud involving the state fuel subsidy programme.

Nigeria paid for nearly twice as much motor fuel as the country consumed between 2009 and 2011, one parliamentary inquiry found, in fraudulent deals that cost the treasury $6.8 billion over that time.

"The ...EFCC on Friday arraigned thirteen suspects ... implicated in ...the fuel subsidy scam," EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren said in a statement, referring to individuals as well as companies implicated.

It said eight suspects, working for five companies, were charged with involvement in about 3.7 billion naira worth of fraud.

It said they are accused of taking subsidy payments on false pretences and forging documents to import motor fuel.

The names included Ngozi Ekeoma, chief executive of Nepal Oil & Gas, and Emmanuel Morah and George Ogbonna of Rocky Energy Limited.

Three other suspects in a separate subsidy fraud were identified as wanted persons last month.

Nigeria is among the top 10 crude oil exporters but decades of corruption and mismanagement have left it dependent on imports for most of its refined fuel needs.

The government subsidises these in what has become its single biggest fiscal cost. But the scheme has bled billions of dollars from the treasury over the past decade in corrupt deals.

The EFCC opened an investigation in January, after an abortive attempt to remove fuel subsidies by President Goodluck Jonathan in January.

After more than a week of protests and strikes, President Jonathan partially reinstated them.

An investigation by a committee he set up found that traders fraudulently collected 382 billion naira last year in subsidy payments.

Two EFCC officers were themselves jailed for five years for demanding a $640 bribe from a local government official, the watchdog said on Friday.

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