Thursday, 20 June 2013
Fuel Scarcity - The New Reality By Frank Onuoha
Nigerians, for a while now, have been witnessing persistent fuel scarcity in most states of the federation, while many petrol stations are no longer selling fuel at the Government pump price of N97. This situation, a cause of anguish to hapless Nigerians who are usually at the receiving end of government’s inept policies, should be a source of embarrassment for the Nigerian government.
Although government has now put in place many stringent guidelines for the administration of the subsidy scheme, they have continued the endless probe of oil marketers. This has succeeded in stifling the business of legitimate oil marketers resulting in the endless queues that we have seen resurface on most Nigerian roads. These fuel queues have many unintended consequences, including the higher cost of transportation, a loss of productivity, increased crime rates and when combined with the recent flooding of over 22 states, the plight of the average Nigerian is better imagined than experienced.
Probes by the House Committee, EFCC, Special Fraud Unit and the Presidential Verification Panel into the same subject matter seem like unwarranted duplication of effort reminiscent of a witch hunt. While not holding brief for any oil marketing company, the curious choice of the MD of Access Bank, Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede to head the Presidential Verification Panel (VAP) is both troubling and instructive.
As the Managing Director of Access Bank who has been in the saddle now for more than ten years now, contrary to the CBN guidelines, Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede cannot be said to be an impartial arbiter of this process. There are so many issues bordering on conflict of interest with his appointment.
In the first place, a sitting bank MD will most likely have solicited business from some of these companies, and may indeed have an axe to grind with several of the companies under investigation by the committee which he now heads.
Secondly, among the companies under investigation are some Access Bank/Intercontinental Bank clients, how will the committee not grant preferential treatment to these companies or any related parties and other favored entities?
Thirdly, the issue of the involvement of his ‘relative’ in Ice Energy, a company indicted by the House of Representatives committee in the fuel subsidy investigation is another clear case of conflict of interest.
Lastly, the Aig-Imokhuede and Herbert Wigwe owned company; United Alliance was itself a prominent debtor under the defunct Intercontinental bank, only for the duo to end up being rewarded with the acquisition of Intercontinental Bank.
Given the vital financial intermediation role of banks in an economy and their high degree of sensitivity to potential difficulties arising from ineffective corporate governance, corporate governance for banking organisations is of great importance to the financial system. The Aig-Imokhuede led committee unfortunately cannot run away from these issues of conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts in their activities and ideally the MD of Access Bank should have recused himself because of this or the apparent lack of impartiality that makes him incapable of properly fulfilling his duties.
Government should finally resolve the endless probe of marketers to restore some sanity back into the system. Nigerians are groaning under the harsh living conditions we have found ourselves.
Frank Onuoha Esq
414 Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent
Wuse ll – Abuja