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EFCC recovers N13bn illegal fuel subsidy payments

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission recovered about N13bn as proceeds of illegal payments made under the subsidy regime between 2017 and 2021.

This was based on the National inherent risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing in the Nigerian extractive sector document obtained by our correspondent from the website of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit.

The report read in part, “The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the agency responsible for the investigation and prosecution of fraudulent subsidies in the oil and gas in Nigeria recovered N12,998,963,178.29 as proceeds of illegal payment made under the subsidy regime between 2017 and 2021.”

A tabular breakdown showed that approximately N4.67bn was recovered in 2017, N4.29bn in 2018, N2.41bn in 2019, N416.51m in 2020 and N1.22bn in 2021.

It was further noted in the report that there were several opportunities for fraudulent activities in the oil and gas sector.

The report added, “Opportunities for fraudulent activities exist in the oil and gas sector from extraction to sales of refined products to consumers. The absence of reliable equipment to measure the volume of crude oil being extracted makes it impossible to estimate the volume of crude oil extracted and even stolen through oil theft and vandalism. Oil theft also occurs in the downstream sector, as petrol pumps are rigged at petrol stations or adulterated.

“Also, to be noted is the sale of petroleum products on the ‘black market’ giving rise to petroleum products being sold at exorbitant prices. Of concern is the emerging trend of filling station attendants acting as money agents, without appropriate customer due diligence carried out. It should be stated, however, that in most cases, the amount sold to an individual is usually not suspicious. However, if left unchecked, this practice could pose a threat to the country.”

It also noted that there had been diversion of petroleum products to non-designated retail outlets, which is a fraudulent practice that leverages on the fuel subsidy regime.

The report added, “Other fraudulent practices include the diversion of petroleum products to non-designated retail outlets to gain undue financial advantage. This practice may be intra- state, inter-state and across the borders of Nigeria to neighbouring countries.

“The Joint Border Exercise in August 2019 with operation code-named ‘Exercise Swift Response’ resulted in large number of seizures of trucks and other vehicles used to smuggle refined products outside the country. This exercise was coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser. This is also connected to the subsidy regime as the cost of PMS in Nigeria is significantly lower than in neighbouring countries.

“Another fraudulent practice is the smuggling of petroleum products. The NNPC recorded daily Premium Motor Spirit evacuation spikes in various depots across the country, against government projected volumes of daily consumption.

These spikes led to the reactivation of Operation White II – an inter-agency task team comprising the NNPC, stakeholders and LEAs in May 2021. It was further reported that these volumes were being smuggled out to neighbouring countries like Benin Republic, Cameroun, Niger republic etc., with higher PMS prices compared to Nigeria. The OPW II team was mandated to curtail the smuggling, diversion and hoarding of PMS to ensure the Nation’s energy security. Intelligence-driven investigations are ongoing.”

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Stallion Nigeria debunks owing GTB N13 billion

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Stallion Nigeria Limited has denied owing Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) N13 billion.

Reacting to reports in a statement signed by Samar Sapre, chief financial officer of Stallion Nigeria, the company said: “Our attention has been drawn to an article circulating around in the media alleging that Stallion is indebted to GTB to the tune of N13 billion. The publication is false and the works of mischief makers as no such debt exists.

“Stallion has been in court with GTB since 2019 over allegations and claims with Stallion winning against GTB at the Court of Appeal, Nigeria. The matter is yet in court and to that extent remains subjudice.

“As a law-abiding corporate entity with faith in the Nigerian judiciary, we refrain from commenting on a matter that is subjudice except to clarify that the publication is false, mischievous and a ploy to smear the unblemished reputation of Stallion.

“We implore the general public to ignore the publication as there is no such court verdict existing anywhere as alleged in the publication. The matter is still pending in court.”

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Kaduna CAN chairman calls for arrest of bank officials over cash scarcity

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Joseph Hayab, chairman of the Kaduna chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has called for the arrest and prosecution of bank officials hoarding the new naira notes.

His statement came amid the scarcity of the new naira notes across the country — a situation that is heightening tension and causing hardship for Nigerians.

Hayab, who spoke in Kaduna on Sunday, commended President Muhammadu Buhari on the direction of the policy aimed at deterring vote buying.

The cleric said the Central Bank of Niger(CBN) should do everything possible to make the currency available to end the hardship.

“Notwithstanding CAN believe that despite the temporary pains Nigerians face, the citizenry is prepared to support the president on the matter of the deadline, especially if it would assist to ease the tension in the country,” he said.

“Therefore, managers of banks who are found to hoard the new naira notes to create artificial scarcity, but are behind the public arena helping money-bag politicians to get the new notes, set the public up against the CBN’s new policy.

“Such banks and bankers should be investigated, and if found culpable, be made to face the wrath of the law.

“CAN will continue to sensitize and mobilize our faithful to support any programme which results could bring about good service delivery for a better nation.”

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‘Bank officials sell naira notes to us’ — PoS operators explain increase in charges

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Point of sale (PoS) operators have claimed that bank officials sell cash (both old and new naira notes) to them.

In separate interviews with NAN in Abuja on Friday, some of the operators said they pay an exorbitant fee which depends on the amount withdrawn.

To make up for the extra expense, they explained that they had no choice but to increase the charges paid by customers.

They further appealed to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to penalise banks involved in the act.

An operator along Nyanya-NNPC road, who preferred anonymity, said she paid the extra charge to keep her business going.

”I paid a very high amount to get this money that I am giving to customers. If you look around here, other operators did not open,” she said.

”The woman (bank official) that I collect money from even increased the money today because she said that cash is scarce and she kept it for me because I called her earlier to do so.

”I pay according to the amount I collect. Sometimes, I pay as high as N5,000 for N50,000 to N70,000 that I collect from her.

”I charge N500 for every N5,000 withdrawn and N1000 for every N10000 withdrawn for me to recover what I spent to collect the money.”

Also speaking, Nnedi Ikonye, a PoS operator along Lugbe, said she paid N3,000 for withdrawing N65,000 in a bank.

”I was asked to pay N3,000 for the N65,000 that I withdrew from a bank and that is because I know someone in that bank,” Ikonye explained.

“That is just a token compared to what my colleagues are paying. They pay more because they don’t know people in the bank.”

Alphonsus Idah, a PoS operator at Mararaba market, urged the CBN to impose sanctions against banks who persist in selling cash to their customers.

This, he explained, would stop the untold hardship faced by citizens.

Another PoS operator, who pleaded anonymity, alleged that bank officials usually withdraw money for their clients.

“In some banks, ATM will not work even though they are loaded with cash,” the operator said.

“During close of work, the bankers will turn the machine on and queue to withdraw from the machine.

“The annoying thing is that one banker can hold like 10 different ATM cards and will withdraw from all of them. This is frustrating.”

In a bid to address long queues at automated teller machines (ATMs), the CBN had directed banks to commence payment of redesigned notes over the counter, with a daily limit of N20,000.

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