A few days ago, Justice Abdul Kafarati of the Federal High Court at Abuja issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from prosecuting the Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited, Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah and his company over their alleged complicity in the 2011 oil subsidy regime. The court judgment also barred the Inspector-General of Police, Abubakar Mohammed and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke, from taking any step towards prosecuting the applicants. However, in spite of this straight-forward directive, critics of Ifeanyi Ubah are creating the false impression that this court ruling may have been a compromised one. The attempt to prove that this warped thinking might not have informed Justice Kafarati’s judgment on the matter, justifies this media intervention.
Perhaps, in order to prime the reading public into properly appreciating the issues being addressed here, it is imperative to embark on a little excursion into history and refresh our memory over what transpired during the 2011 oil subsidy regime as it relates to Ifeanyi Ubah. Chief Ubah’s travails started with a petition by the Presidential Committee on the Verification and Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy Payments chaired by Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, the Managing Director of Access Bank.
The committee asked the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigeria Police Force to investigate subsidy claims by Capital Oil & Gas Industries Ltd even when it had not concluded its assignment, and the Federal Government was yet to issue a White Paper on its recommendations. In the final analysis, the Imoukhuede panel accused Ifeanyi Ubah of collecting subsidy payments for which proof of mother-vessels were not found in locations claimed at the time of trans-shipment.
Incidentally, the recommendations of the Imoukhuede Committee Report were based on the findings of auditors from M/s Ernst & Young which claimed to have conducted a field examination of oil marketing and trading companies using an approved audit framework. Interestingly, and in a very fundamental sense, the findings of the auditors, Ernst & Young, vindicated Capital Oil in many respect, especially with regard to the falsehood which the public had been fed with, and that is that, Ifeanyi Ubah’s company was among those who collected subsidy payments without importing any Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
However, and ironically, the same Ernst & Young auditing firm, which indicated that there was evidence that Capital Oil & Gas Industries Ltd imported and distributed about 97 percent of its assigned engagements, ended up recommending irregular transactions against Ifeanyi Ubah in the 2011 oil subsidy regime.
Fortunately, most of the findings of Ernst & Young auditing firm tally with those of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the matter. On page 81 of its Report, the Imoukhuede Committee stated that the CBN sent examiners from its departments of Banking Supervision and Trade & Exchange to review the import documents and evidence of sales proceeds for oil marketing and trading companies with authorized dealers of foreign exchange (banks) in respect of claims submitted by the companies for 2011. These CBN officials were at the banks that processed the 857 (eight hundred and fifty-seven) claims that were submitted to the PPPRA, to verify the claims.
According to the Imoukhuede Committee Report, the CBN examiners established that “seven hundred and forty five transactions were found to have inflows of Naira proceeds, which appeared commensurate to the value of the imported products…, while a total of 112 transactions did not have evidence of sales proceeds based on banks’ available records at the date of verification”. Interestingly, Capital Oil & Gas Industries Ltd owned by Ifeanyi Unah was not part of the 112 listed companies which could not provide evidence of sales proceeds.
Now, in a situation where the auditing firm, Ernst & Young, claimed there was evidence that Capital Oil executed about 97 percent of its assigned oil imports, and CBN examiners did not include Ubah’s company on the list of the 112 companies which could not provide proof of sales proceeds, what business has the EFCC with the investigation of Ifeanyi Ubah over the 2011 oil subsidy transactions? If the EFCC investigations are about the 3 percent supposedly unverified trucking data regarding Capital Oil’s fuel imports for the 2011 oil subsidy regime in the Imoukhuede Report, which has been quashed by a court of competent jurisdiction, is the anti-graft agency not being contemptuous of a court judgment? It is necessary to point out that as at this moment of writing, no court of superior jurisdiction has set aside the judgment of the lower court that quashed the Imoukhuede Report that falsely indicted Ifeanyi Ubah.
In any case, even if the EFCC investigations are based on a fresh petition on the activities of Capital Oil over the 2011 oil subsidy transactions, what happens to the police report that investigated Ifeanyi Ubah and cleared him of any infractions? Where does the EFCC derive the powers to investigate transactions earlier investigated by the police? Is the impression being created that the EFCC has supervisory and prosecutory powers over the Nigeria Police Force? The truth is that as far as the 1999 constitution (as amended) and the EFCC Establishment Act 2004 are concerned, no powers have been extended to the EFCC to play any supervisory role over the police and its investigations. This is the point that has been made by Justice Kafarati when he issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC, the Police and the Attorney-General of the Federation, from prosecuting Ifeanyi Ubah and his company over their alleged complicity in the 2011 oil subsidy regime.
Nkemjika, a research writer and media consultant, is the co-author of “Oil
Exploration in Northern Nigeria: Problems and Prospects”.