• Sources Say Action Is On Account Of A Petition By NIMASA
Few days after President Dr Goodluck Jonathan approved that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) be invited to probe the alleged fuel subsidy fraud, operatives of the anti-graft agency last week swooped on some maritime industry agencies; including the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Although details of the action of the EFCC operatives were sketchy as at press time, Shipping Position Daily specifically learnt that they carted away documents relating to cargo shipments, invoices, ship traffic and so on.
An unofficial source at the anti-graft agency also told our correspondent that the agency was looking for documents relating to over-invoicing, number of tankers that came into the country at specific times, those at Anchorage at specific times and how long they were there, he added that the EFFC operatives will also like to see documents relating to issuance of sailing certificates. The official however said that no arrests were made.
Our correspondent however confirmed that the EFCC operatives were also interested in the kernel of a petition earlier traced to NIMASA at the onset of the fuel subsidy debate.
In the petition which government officials tagged a memo, NIMASA was said to have pointedly accuse officials of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of conniving with foreign interests to sell locally-refined products to Nigerians as imported products and thereby causing loopholes in the fuel distribution network in the country.
Shipping Position Daily confirmed last week that a top official of the agency and an unnamed stakeholder, who was simply identified as the President of the Maritime Stakeholders Consultative Forum, had jointly petitioned the presidency about the activities of some of the players in the oil sector downstream.
They hinged their findings on last year’s arrest of a vessel; Sea Phantom alongside its Captain, Allan T. Arcilla and submitted that the so-called deregulation or subsidy removal is nothing but a hoax.
Our source stressed that, although the petition was written a little over two months ago, its contents and the allegations were too serious to be ignored unsubstantiated.
The petition, a copy of which was sighted by our correspondent detailed alleged involvement of some interests in a fuel importation scam through the use of some questionable ships and shipping companies.
According to the NIMASA petition, on November 1, 2011 a vessel SEA PHANTOM, with Captain Allan T. Arcilla and flying a Hong Kong flag was accosted by NIMASA team on random check while discharging its content – about (ten thousand) 10,000 tons of Kerosene (being DPK – Dual Purpose Kerosene) into a mother vessel (bigger vessel) MT TORM ESBJERG offshore well within Lagos waters. Paper checks revealed that SEA PHANTOM loaded its about (ten thousand) 10,000 tons of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) from Okirika in Rivers state with Port Harcourt port (Abonnema) as finally point of discharge for local consumption. However, the vessel was diverted to Lagos offshore. Further checks uncovered that the receiving vessel MT TORM ESBJERG with a capacity of 29,733 tons was already in possession of more than 20,000 metric tons (mts) of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK). The SEA PHANTOM content was added making it a total content of about 37,500 metric tons of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK)”.
The petition alleged further that “a chagrin discovery from further paper investigation shows that the content (DUAL Purpose Kerosene – more than 37,500 tons) of MT TORM ESBJERG was to be returned to Port Harcourt port in Rivers state as imported DPK for local consumption by the same cabals. On interrogation by the NIMASA team the Captain and Agent (Valeska Tankers Nigeria Ltd) of MT TORM ESBJERG corroborated the finding that the Dual Purpose Kerosene discovered in their vessel is meant to be discharged at Port Harcourt port in Rivers state”
“To the utter amazement of the NIMASA team, both ships (SEA PHANTOM & MT TORM ESBJERG) do not have naval clearance and are not in compliance with IMO Resolution MEPC 186 (59), which came into force (domesticated) in January 2011. Thus, these ships were operating in the territorial waters of Nigeria without formally notifying the appropriate authorities (Nigerian Navy and NIMASA).
Further investigations also revealed that both vessel were crewed by foreigners while carrying cargo from a Nigerian port to another Nigerian port; an operation classed as Cabotage, of which one of the requirements is to have an all-Nigerian crew onboard except the operating company or vessel has obtained a waiver from the Federal Ministry of Transport. This basic requirement was completely disregarded in this case by both the MT SEA PHANTOM and MT TORM ESBERG.
The anti graft agency had earlier in the week, stormed the Abuja office of the Petroleum Products and Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA)
The EFCC spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, had confirmed that the agency had commenced investigations of the fuel subsidy payments.
“The essence is to get information and documents relating to all importation of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol). Basically, we will be looking at who imported what, when, at what price and from where”, he stated.