* Mobil Oil “had something to hide” - parliament
* Firm says it was never invited by subsidy committee
* 18 firms named, others non-listed Nigeria-based
By Joe Brock
ABUJA, April 20 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency should recover 14.93 billion naira ($95.04 million) in fuel subsidy payments received by Exxon Mobil’s Nigerian downstream subsidiary, a parliamentary investigation this week said.
The national assembly’s fuel subsidy report said 18 firms, including Mobil Oil Nigeria, never produced the documents that would prove the subsidy funds they received from government tallied with the amount of fuel they imported.
Mobil Oil’s bill was three times larger than the next biggest amount owing and more than 10 times bigger than the majority of firms named, the report said. The other companies were non-listed Nigeria-based downstream firms.
“These companies deliberately refused to appear because they had something to hide,” the report said, listing the amount Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency should recover from each firm.
Mobil Oil public affairs manager Akin Fatunke told Reuters the firm was never officially invited to the parliamentary hearing. Exxon owns 60 percent of the Nigerian downstream arm and the rest is held by shareholders.
There are several investigations and audits going on into the fuel subsidy, including by the anti-corruption agency. Mobil Oil said it had duly complied with the hearing by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission because they got an invitation.
Nigeria tried in vain to end gasoline subsidies on Jan. 1, but a week of public protests forced the government to partially re-instate the payments, seen as a massive drain on its budget.
The protests prompted a wave of audits and probes into why fuel subsidy costs were spiralling out of control.
The central bank governor, lawmakers and government ministers said Nigeria was spending billions of dollars more on fuel subsidies than was in the budget, and buying billions of litres more than were actually consumed.
Part of the probe was to uncover companies which collected subsidy payments but never imported fuel or sold the fuel to neighbouring countries where fuel prices are not subsidised and therefore much higher than in Nigeria.
Investigators looking into the subsidy found importers were being paid for 59 million litres a day, while the country only consumes 35 million.