Fuel Subsidy Loot: Save Nigeria Group/Pastor Tunde Bakare Plans Another “Occupy Nigeria” Mass Protest

The convener of Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare, and others on Friday, served notice to the Federal Government of another round of mass protest in Lagos and other towns in the country, following the House of Representatives’ report on how over N1.7trn was looted by fuel marketers’and government agencies.

Bakare in an exclusive interview with SUNDAY PUNCH said the SNG would meet on Saturday over the report, while its final position would be known on Wednesday.

One of its prominent allies, Prof. Pat Utomi, also disclosed that some concerned civil society groups had gone far in their preparation to prosecute some individuals and government agencies found culpable by the findings.

The SNG said that it had started dissecting the report, adding that another “Occupy Nigeria”, was imminent if government failed to act swiftly in prosecuting the culprits.

The House report had indicted the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency, Department of Petroleum Resources and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

Consequently, the NNPC was asked to refund N310.4bn it fraudulently claimed and another N285bn for fuel imports above the PPPRA level; and another N108.6bn the corporation paid itself.

A curious revelation was the N127.8bn paid 128 times to “unknown entities” within 24 hours on January 12 and 13 in 2009 by a “particular Accountant General.”

Replying a text message earlier sent to him, Bakare said, “We are dissecting the report right now, and we will come up with our findings and the way forward once we finish.”

However, later on the telephone he said, “As I replied to your text, we are dissecting the (probe) report right now; we are meeting this weekend (Saturday) to discuss our strategy.

“By Wednesday, we will come out with our findings. But right now, we are back to the trenches.

“In 2011, the report reveals that we spent almost N3tn on subsidy, and the ones (subsidies) paid for the previous years were lower than that. Do they think we are idiots?”

The spokesperson of Save Nigeria Group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH earlier, called the probe report a searing and an open book on the rape of the nation by the organisations, marketers, and parastatals indicted in the report.

He stated, “This is a searing report. It’s an open book on the rape of a nation by mindless people. We expect that the Federal Government will want to treat the report as a family affair, but we (SNG) will ensure that this is the final nail on the coffin of corruption in Nigeria.

“If you recall, the slogan of Save Nigeria Group was ‘Kill Corruption Not Nigerians.’ And this is what this report is saying, if you don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigerians. In the report, in 2009, the Accountant-General released N999m 128 times in 24 hours.

“And as that time, only 36 marketers were participants under the Petroleum Support Fund. How come they suddenly became 128? Does it mean that 128 fuel marketers collected the same amount of subsidy and they imported the same quantity of oil? It’s all fraud.

“I want the executive to be sanctioned for its budget rascality. The budget presented and approved by the legislature in 2011 on subsidy payment was N245bn and they ended up spending N2.6tn. The president must be made to answer for extra budgetary spending.”

Odumakin advised the Federal Government to implement the recommendations made by the House Ad -Hoc Committee on Fuel subsidy probe in full, stating that if they fail, it would bring a revolt in Nigeria.

He added, “The government should be ready to charge as many Nigerians as possible for treason, because during the fuel subsidy protest at the Gani Fawehinmi Park (rebranded Freedom Park), the Federal Government had said that we were trying to topple the government.

“If the report is not implemented fully within the time frame given, Save Nigeria Group will still mobilise Nigerians to come out, and speak up against corruption.”

Odumakin insisted that it would amount to treating the issue of corruption with kid gloves if those indicted and asked to make refunds only made refunds and were not prosecuted.

“Those indicted in the probe report should be prosecuted after making the refunds.

“Before the expiration of the three months deadline given by the Ad-Hoc Committee, we will send out feelers through some activities to ensure that the report does not go the way of other reports that were swept under the carpet,” he said.

On her own part, President, Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, was not optimistic on the implementation of the recommendations made in the report by the Federal Government.

She feared that it might go the way of previous reports.

According to her, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for the Federal Government to act on the report.

However, she said, “If the Federal Government fails in implementing the report, the logical thing to do is for us once again to mobilise Nigerians, given the huge scam that the fuel subsidy has become.

“The final moment to battle the soul of Nigeria has come with this report, and the forces of regeneration should not miss this opportunity.”

Another prominent figure in the anti-subsidy removal protest, Prof. Pat Utomi, said he and others had been preparing to ensure that everybody indicted in the subsidy probe was prosecuted, even before the report was released.

Utomi admitted that consultations had begun and that action would begin soon.

He said, “We are still going to meet and redefine our strategy. I have always said that what we need the most is to build institutions and one major way to do that is for civil society groups to litigate issues.

“When you take issues to court, the rulings define the way things are to be done in the country.

“So as you know, we are already in court and we have decided to try and get private prosecution of parties involved, whether they are individuals, companies or government. And there would be street protests if they become necessary.”

Similarly, northern civil rights activist and president, Civil Rights Congress, Mallam Shehu Sani, said his group would mobilise against President Goodluck Jonathan if he failed to implement the report.

The CRC, is a coalition of 36 other human rights groups in the north. “The petroleum sector has its activities shrouded in mystery and it is filled with all manner of characters who plunder our collective resources,” Sani said.

On his part, Dr. Tunji Braitwaite said he would make his position known on “this and other horrendous and pitiable state of Nigeria within next few days,” as he had just returned from the US.

The SNG in coalition with the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress had effectively mobilised Nigerians against President Goodluck Jonathan’s removal of subsidy on fuel, on January 1, 2012.

He had raised the price of petrol from N65 per litre to N141, which forced the Lagos angry crowd to occupy Gani Fawehinmi Park, at Ojota, for one week.

The protesters, which included those from Ogun State, were only dispersed by soldiers when the government deployed troops in Lagos.

Besides Bakare, Utomi and Braithwaite, other prominent faces at the protest regarded as the biggest so far in the country were Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Dr. Idika Kalu among others.

The House, which gave those it indicted three months to make refunds, would begin debate on the report on Tuesday.

A total of 15 purported fuel importers collected $337,842,663 in 2010 without importing any fuel, while another 18 firms, which failed to honour the House panel’s summons, were asked to refund N41.9bn.

The report had stated, “It is believed that these companies deliberately refused to appear because they have something to hide. The relevant anti-corruption agencies should ensure full recovery.”

Reacting to the N127.8bn said to have been paid to unknown entities, the Accountant-General to the Federation, Mr. J. O. Utunla, said on Friday that it was the PPPRA that made the controversial payment.

It also said that the Account where the money was paid into was owned and managed by the agency.

Utunla who spoke through the spokesman for his office, Mr. Hassan Dodo, said, “The Account is owned and operated by the PPPRA. The OAGF did not issue cheques or any other payment instruments to any oil marketers.

“This Office therefore, suggests that the House could demand from the CBN the details and the organisation that issued the payments instrument.

“This will confirm that they were issued by the PPPRA and not the OAGF.”

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