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BIG STORY

REPORT: Marketers Stockpile Petrol, August Fuel Price May Hit N150 Per Litre

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Filling station owners are currently in a panic buying mood, as many of them are stockpiling products ahead of the announcement of a new pump price for petrol in August, an investigation has shown.

It was also gathered that the price of the commodity might increase to about N150/litre as the committee saddled with the task of fixing the petrol price had been meeting and would make the new price public soon.

Marketers and officials of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency told our correspondent in Abuja on Sunday that the rise in crude oil price in the international market could lead to an increase in petrol price.

They noted that since March this year, the cost of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, had always been adjusted based on the global prices of crude oil.

“There is panic buying and it is because of the worry that prices will be reviewed either downwards or upwards. But because of the marginal rise in crude oil prices, the calculation is that petrol price could go up,” the National President, Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, said.

He added, “That is the situation and this was why we requested that there should be a stakeholders’ engagement every month or quarterly so that we can be sure of what to expect.”

He said many marketers who had stockpiled products were ready to sell at the current rate regardless of any increase.

Gillis-Harry noted that the failure of the pricing regulator to involve marketers in the price-fixing process was putting dealers in a bad light.

He, however, stated that a lot of marketers had determined not to hike petrol cost immediately, particularly if there was an increase in the price of PMS in August.

The PETROAN president said, “Many of our members have been buying products since (July) 22nd and now they have products lined up, hoping that if PPPRA increases the price, they will manage the cost in a way that Nigerians will know that we are not out to profiteer.

“We are out there to give service. So if we got products at this current rate of about N143 and they are ready to shoot the price up to N155, which is what is being anticipated, we will still sell at N143.”

Gillis-Harry said marketers would not take advantage of any petrol price increase, adding that a task force had already been established to work on enforcement of agreed terms.

He further noted that marketers had written to the petroleum minister, the PPPRA, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company on the need to involve marketers when fixing prices.

Gillis-Harry said, “From March to July, there was no clear-cut permutation or formula that we as marketers can affirm that this is the reason why the price changed from this to that. We don’t have it.

“And we’ve kept asking what the parameters are because the information we have is that marketers margin is going to increase. There was no such increase in the margin; rather, there was the depletion of our buying capital.”

In June, the PPPRA insisted that it would continue providing price bands for petrol despite opposition by oil marketers regarding the move.

It also declared that regulation for PMS price had been established in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

The Executive Secretary, PPPRA, Abdulkadir Saidu, argued that different sectors of the polity operated under the guidance of national regulators.

He said, “The Central Bank of Nigeria regulates the banks and other financial sector operators, the National Communication Commission regulates telecommunications, etc, and the same exists for operators in Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector.

“To this end, it is not out of place for the agency (PPPRA) to provide a guiding price band with the aim to protect consumers against price gouging.

“It is important to also state that there is nowhere in the world that deregulation means total lack of control, supervision or oversight.”

Saidu noted that while the market-based pricing regime was a policy introduced to free the market of all encumbrances to investment and growth, it should not be misconstrued to mean a total abdication of government’s responsibility to the sector and citizenry.

On the need for a regulatory/legal framework for PMS pricing, he said extant laws gave the agency the legislative backing to formulate policy initiatives on pricing regime.

“In accordance with the above, the development of Guidelines for Petroleum Products Commercial Framework has been concluded and Code of Conducts for Operators is currently being firmed up to reflect the present price regime,” Saidu said.

He added, “The agency, in collaboration with the Office of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation has put in place regulation on the PMS market-based pricing regime.”

On Sunday, the spokesperson for PPPRA, Kimchi Apollo, told our correspondent that the committee saddled with the task of coming with the new price for August was working on it.

“The committee has been working on the new price and I will keep you updated as soon as the cost for August is arrived at,” Apollo said.

But oil marketers insisted that it was high time the government intervened in the matter by making owners of filling stations to be involved in the process of fixing the price of petrol.

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BIG STORY

Plot To Scrap EFCC Thickens, Bill Seeking To Replace Commission With Agency Under Ministry Of Justice In Circulation

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A plan to scrap the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is underway. A draft bill, now in circulation, seeks to replace the commission with an agency under the Federal Ministry of Justice under the Attorney-General of the Federation.

It eliminates EFCC’s autonomy and replaces it with an entity to be under the complete control of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) exposed the plot last Wednesday.

According to PACAC Chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), the development amounted to “the mother of corruption fighting back”.

The proposed bill

The bill is entitled: “An Act to Repeal the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 (Act No. 1 of 2004) and enact the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act which establishes a more effective and efficient Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to conduct inquiries and investigate all economic and financial crimes and related offenses and for other related matters.”

In several sections, the bill seeks to give the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) so much power over the proposed new anti-corruption agency and reduce it to a “mere paper” department under the Federal Ministry of Justice.

For instance, the draft bill proposes a repeal of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004, the scrapping of the commission, and its replacement with a department in the Federal Ministry of Justice under the Attorney-General of the Federation.

It also proposes the replacement of the EFCC Executive Chairman with a Director-General to be appointed by the President, based on the recommendation of the AGF, subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Section 8 of the bill reads in part: “There shall be for the commission, a Director-General who shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Attorney-General, subject to the confirmation by the Senate.

“Subject to the provisions of Subsection (3) of this section, the Director-General shall be a retired or serving member of any government institution, including any security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of a director or its equivalent or a person from the private sector.

“A person shall not be appointed as a Director-General unless he is of proven integrity and has 15 years cognate experience in security, forensic or financial crimes investigation; forensic accounting or auditing; or law practice or enforcement relating to economic and financial crimes or anti-corruption.”

The proposed law restates the power of the AGF to discontinue the prosecution of criminal cases as guaranteed in Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution and empowers him to cancel the prosecutorial power of the EFCC when he sees fit.

Section 45 of the new bill states that the AGF may, after notifying the EFCC, intervene in court proceedings, at first instance or on appeal,  where, in the opinion of the AGF, public interest, the interest of justice, and the need to prevent abuse of legal process so demand.

It further reads: “On receipt of the notice under subsection (2) of this section, the commission shall hand over to the Attorney-General the prosecution file and all documents relating to the prosecution and provide him with such other information as he may require on the matter within the time specified by him.

“The commission shall furnish returns of all cases handled by it annually and in such manner and at such intervals as the Attorney-General shall direct.

“Where the commission fails to comply with the provisions of this section, the Attorney General may, subject to prevailing circumstances, revoke the power to prosecute from the commission.”

The draft bill states that the chairman and members of the management board shall be appointed by the President, on the recommendation of the Attorney-General subject to confirmation by the Senate; and for a period of four years in the first instance, renewable for another period of four years and no more.

The Secretary of the EFCC, which is a creation of Section 8 of the existing EFCC Act, is not mentioned in the new bill, indicating that the position has been scrapped.

Other proposals are the replacement of the EFCC Board with directors to be appointed by the Attorney-General, and the elimination of the position of the Secretary of the EFCC, who PACAC said is a critical officer who serves as the institutional memory and the administrative head of the agency.

According to PACAC, Section 11 of the proposed bill provides that nobody may be appointed or seconded to the new agency unless he is screened and approved by the Department of State Services (DSS).

Under the bill, the EFCC’s annual report is not to be submitted to the National Assembly until it has been passed through the Attorney-General for onward transmission to the National Assembly; thus making the Attorney-General the reporting officer of the agency rather than the Chairman or the Director-General, as the new bill is proposing.

Frosty relationship

The EFCC under the watch of its suspended Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, had a strained relationship with AGF Abubakar Malami (SAN), who accused Magu of insubordination and re-looting of recovered funds.

It has also complained that Magu often failed to forward case files bordering on corruption to the AGF’s office. Rather the EFCC proceeded to court, a situation which Malami felt was, among others, unprocedural.

The power play between both men resulted in Magu’s arrest last July by a combined team of Department of State Services personnel and.

He has since been replaced by EFCC Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation and further directives. Since Magu’s axing, President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly suspended 10 senior officials of the EFCC.

Magu’s suspension followed an all too familiar trend of top bosses of the anti-graft agency facing the axe in very questionable ways for allegedly questionable behaviour.

Stakeholders alarmed

The new bill has evoked alarm in many stakeholders. They are particularly concerned by the AGF’s (exercise of his constitutional right) of filing of nolle prosequi (discontinuance of a criminal proceeding) in respect of major political and governmental figures.

Frustrated corruption cases

According to one of such stakeholders, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), the AGF’s office is to be blamed for many stalled high profile corruption cases. It cited the trial of a former Kogi State Senator Mr. Dino Melaye, as one of the high profile cases allegedly stalled by the AGF’s office.

It made the allegation in a petition titled “Illegal takeover of the case file of Senator Dino Melaye on the operation of foreign bank accounts and obstruction of justice by the Attorney General of the Federation and Compromise of Prosecutions”  signed by its Chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju.

Following allegations of running a foreign account, some with fictitious names, the rights group petitioned the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), requesting for prosecution.

It said the bureau in a reply dated May 22, 2018, stated that it had transferred the case file to the Ministry of Justice on the request of the Attorney-General.

Similarly, a coalition of about 150 civil societies on August 3, in a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, also listed about 14 cases bordering on corruption said to have been stalled by the office of the AGF which they said threatened the prospect of future of anti-corruption campaigns.

The coalition alleged that, that on November 18, 2018, Mr. Malami, through a lawyer from his office, Mr. Pius Akuta, came to Lagos High Court to withdraw a case of fraud filed by EFCC against one Dr. John Abebe, a businessman and younger brother to the late Stella Obasanjo but the EFCC resisted the illegal move before Justice Mojisola Dada of Ikeja High Court on the ground that the AGF had no constitutional power to take over a case filed in Lagos High Court.

Other allegations listed included the withdrawal of the case against the Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr Danladi Yakubu, for criminal charges, demand for the withdrawal of the cases against Bello Adoke, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and others involved in the Malabu scandal, and his alleged halting of investigation of fraud in the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NISRAL).

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BIG STORY

El-Rufai: Most People Think Governors Are Thieves

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Nasir El-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, says many people believe governors are corrupt and ineffective.

Speaking on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, he said being a governor is one of the most difficult things in the world.

He also highlighted some of the challenges he faced when he assumed office.

“We came into office at a very bad time in terms of economic viability. We came in when oil prices were crashing into the twenties and we had inherited bureaucracies that were designed and structured around $100 per barrel oil. We had inherited wages at that level as well. And all of a sudden, there was this collapse and Nigeria went into a recession,” he said.

“Governors are the most suspected elected officials. Everyone thinks governors are just thieves and we are wasting state resources, we are not doing anything. Governors are assumed to be taking security votes. When people hear security votes, they think it is a slush fund for governors. So we have a very negative image out there.

“Meanwhile, we have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. And we are subnational; our capacity to borrow is limited. The federal government can print money. We cannot.

“Other than Lagos, very few state governments have room to do what they can do because apart from Lagos virtually every state in Nigeria relies on Federation Account transfers. And when they go down, you are in trouble.”

He spoke on the sidelines of the fifth edition of Kadinvest, the state government’s investment forum.

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BIG STORY

I’II Announce My Next Plan Soon, Ize-Iyamu Speaks After Saturday’s Loss To Obaseki

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The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, has said he will soon announce his next line of action after the declaration of Governor Godwin Obaseki the winner of the Saturday poll.

Ize-Iyamu, who trailed the winner with over 84,000 votes, said he was still studying the results and he would make known his plan very soon.

He said this on his Facebook page.

It read, “I hereby thank and appreciate my teeming supporters, who have had to endure many evils including being prevented from exercising their franchise, for their support and determination during the election process.

“I assure you all that I am studying the results along with other party members and will announce the next line of action soon. God bless you all.”

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