N1.07t Subsidy Fraud: Govt Panics Over Protest Threats

LAGOSIANS woke up yesterday to find a team of battle-ready policemen at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park in Ojota on the outskirts of the city.

Their presence is belived to be the government’s reaction to the protest being planned by the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) and other activists against the alleged N1.070 trillion fraud exposed by the report of the House of Representatives ad-Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy.

Save Nigeria Group (SNG) leader Pastor Tunde Bakare has reportedly announced that the Federal Government had been served a mass protest notice, if it fails to prosecute all those mentioned in the report.

Besides, the cleric said the culprits should be asked to make refunds within a specified time.

He said that the civil society group has started dissecting the report and that another operation “Occupy Nigeria” is imminent, if the government fails to prosecute the culprits.

The civil society group, Bakare said, met last Saturday to plan for the protest. “By Wednesday, we would come out with our findings. “But right now, we are back to the trenches,” he said.

But yesterday, armed policemen were deployed to secure the park, which hosted the anti-fuel subsidy removal protest in January.

The police must have arrived overnight, residents said.

An Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) was stationed near the park on the service lane of the expressway facing Maryland, manned by policemen in combat gear.

Two patrol vans were stationed on the other side of the park, along the road leading to the Olusosun Landfill Site The vehicles were also manned by armed personnel.

SNG spokesman Yinka Odumakin described the report of the Farouk Lawan-led committee as searing.

He said: “It is 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 the report is not implemented fully within the given time frame, SNG will mobilise Nigerians to come out and speak up against corruption.”

Odumakin said those indicted should not just be made to make refunds, but prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others who may want to be fraudulent.

In Abuja yesterday, the row between the House of Representatives and oil marketers over the House Ad Hoc Committee’s Report on Fuel Subsidy deepened, with 15 lawmakers withdrawing from the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, United States. The trip was to be sponsored by some marketers.

Also yesterday, House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal said he is not bothered by threats of impeachment over the Farouk Lawan Committee report, which exposed the rot in the subsidy regime.

The House will today debate the report.

But indicted oil marketers are planning to file a motion in court to halt the debate.

The oil marketers have held an appraisal session in Abuja with their lead counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome(SAN), who hinted yesterday moves to halt the debate.

Fifteen members of the House yesterday told the Speaker of their decision to reject some oil marketers sponsorship to the Houston conference.

The OTC summit is expected to hold in two weeks’ time.

A principal officer of the House, who pleaded not to be named, said: “The practice in the past was for one or two members to be participating in the conference. But, some oil marketers offered to sponsor 15 members of the House this year.

“Following the coincidence of the sponsorship with the release of the report of the Ad Hoc Committee, we suspected a plot to scandalise the House leadership.

“But the selected 15 members have met with the Speaker and decided to reject any sponsorship from oil marketers. The House may not even go to the conference, if it is extremely necessary. And where there is need to be represented, the House will foot the bill.”

Asked to name the oil marketers, the source said: “At the appropriate time, we will expose those behind the offer.”

As at press time, the House of Representatives has concluded arrangements to proceed with the debate of the report today.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Media, Hon. Zakari Mohammed, said: “There is no going back on the debate; we will televise it in such a manner that all Nigerians will be able to watch it.

“We are not going to hide anything from Nigeria on our findings, recommendations and decisions. Those behind the fuel subsidy scandal will face public opinion court. The rest is left to history to judge everyone.”

But some oil marketers have launched a counter-offensive, relocating to Abuja to pursue the legal option to halt the debate of the report.

A source at the oil marketers’ session said: “We only came together to review the report of the House. The report of the Farouk Lawan Committee has many gaps and it will be sad if the House is hoodwinked into adopting it.

“It is inexcusable for a panel to say that some marketers refused to appear before it when it is legally or constitutionally empowered to summon or issue warrant of arrest.

“We won’t allow them to get away with this injustice. This debate must be stopped because the House will be working with faulty statistics and jaundiced aspersions on oil marketers.”

But Ozekhome, who spoke with our correspondent on the phone, said: “We are still discussing; we have not filed a motion to stop the debate yet. But after getting relevant facts from the marketers, we will tell the court why the debate should be stopped.”

In a statement in Abuja through his Special Adviser on Media, Alhaji Imam Imam, the Speaker said he was not worried about threats to remove him from office because of the report of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy.

The Speaker’s reaction is the first after facing pressure since the report of the Farouk Lawan’s Committee became public last Wednesday.

The statement said: “The Speaker of the House of Representatives is unfazed by the stories about impeachment or no impeachment. He is very focused about what he promised Nigerians when he was elected, which are transparent leadership and self-less service.

“His determination and vision as encapsulated in his legislative agenda are well on course.

“And Nigerians should be rest assured that the subsidy probe is one in a series of very important probes that the House has initiated. He is assuring Nigerians that the House members will not be deterred, until the polity is cleaned.

“The members of the House of Representatives know that as legislators, they are bound to face threats and resistance from many quarters. The important thing is that they will not be intimidated by anybody or group.”

The Nation

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