Adulerated fuel: Economic fraud, imperative for urgent investigation by EFCC
By Olukayode Ajulo
The recent fuel scarcity debacle just few months into the New Year has caused stirs, reprimands, reprimands among political pundits, stakeholders and concerned citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
At present, there are rumors of damaged vehicles as a result of the use of these adulterated Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) by motorists in some parts of the country. There have also been records of arrests of retail outlets owners, consequent on the unfortunate incidence.
How did the adulterated PMS gain entrance into the Country?
While searching the beam light on the immediate and remote cause of the fuel scarcity, in a rather strange manner, a press release allegedly issued by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited dated 9th February, 2022 on the issue of contaminated Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) with higher concentrates of methanol started making the rounds.
According to the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Mele Kyari, the adulterated PMS had been imported into the country by four importers from Antwerp in Belgium with quality inspectors failing to detect the high level of Methanol it contained, first at the point of import in Belgium and at the point of arrival in Nigeria.
Though the Group Managing Director specifically stated the names of the four importers as MRS through MT Bow Pioneer LITASCO Terminal, Antwerp-Belgium; Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikfi/Brittania-U Consortium through MT Tom Hilde; Oando through MT Elka Appollon and Duke Oil through MT Nord Gainer, yet there has been no record of investigation by relevant Law Enforcement Agencies.
In a saner clime, immediate and discreet investigation would have been conducted and by now, the number of resignation letters tumbling into the HR department of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) should have been in high double figures, but we live in a country where people are not accountable, even for what happens on their desks.
Instead of embarking on industrialization, including the construction of new refineries, we have degenerated to a point of importing and distributing poor quality products. The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) is supposed to be the watch dog in the sector under the Petroleum Industry, Act.
From the above analysis, it is quite apparent that the importation of these adulterated fuel was an audacious scheme by these importers that had made unwitting accomplices, persons in the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) and also corridors of power.
Where does the EFCC come in?
It is expedient to examine again the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as donated to it in Section 6 of the Economic and Financial Crimes (Establishment) Act, 2004, which provides, inter alia:
“ _The Commission shall be responsible for…(b)the investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit card fraud, contract scam, etc.”_
This clear position of law has been given judicial backing in plethora of authorities including the case of CHAIRMAN EFCC VS LITTLE CHILD (2016) 3 NWLR (PART 1498) 72 AT 78 where the Court held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and its officials are statutorily empowered to arrest anybody upon reasonable suspicion of having committed any financial crime.
Given the facts of the instant scenario, the importation of adulterated Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) into the country and the deliberated negligent of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to conduct a discrete check on same at the point of entry into the country no doubt, impact very negatively on the economic and financial fortunes and credibility of Nigeria and same is within the exclusive preserve of the investigating powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
On the backdrop of the above, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission must take the bull by its horn and conduct a discreet and thorough investigations into the criminal activities of these unscrupulous persons in the dark corridors who in the bid to unjustly enrich themselves are making life difficult for innocent Nigerian Citizens.
Dr. Olukayode Ajulo is a Nigerian lawyer, civil rights activist. He is the founder and Managing Partner of Kayode Ajulo & Co. Castle of Law.