Atiku: $1bn Fuel ‘subsidy’ In 2019 Budget Is Buhari’s Campaign Slush Fund

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has come down hard on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) over what he described as huge abuse of financial procedures in the running of the state oil company, alleging that the $1 billion voted in the 2019 budget to fund the under-recovery in petrol price was simply a slush fund to finance President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election campaign.

A statement issued yesterday in Abuja by Atiku’s Special Assistant on Public Communication, Mr. Phrank Shaibu, said “the secret and opaque re-introduction of subsidy in the prices of petrol even before it was provided for in the 2019 budget without any budgetary approval by the National Assembly was proof of the colossal amount of embezzlement and rip-off that have now become the hallmark of the Buhari administration”.

Atiku recalled that at the beginning of 2018, the federal government illegally diverted $1.05 billion (N378 billion at N360 to a dollar) sourced from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dividend funds to secretly fund subsidy payment on petroleum products.

He noted that details of the diversion became public following accusations by the National Assembly that the NNPC had a $3.5 billion subsidy fund it was spending without appropriation by the legislature.

In October, a motion by Senator Biodun Olujimi, (Ekiti-PDP) had triggered debates in the National Assembly on the purported $3.5 billion fund alleged to be managed by the NNPC.

But the NNPC said it had no such fund in its custody. Rather, the corporation said it had a $1.05 billion fund it is using to stabilise petrol supply and distribution in the country.

Atiku said it was on the strength of NNPC’s admission of guilt in the management of the current administration’s subsidy regime that he asked federal government to refund the $1.05 billion, which the NNPC admitted was in its custody.

Atiku said: “From the documents published by Premium Times on November, 5, 2018, we can say without any fear of equivocation that there was never any subsidy at all, better still, that the fraud code-named National Fuel Support Fund was simply a smoke-screen for enriching cronies, and for funding of President Buhari’s re-election campaign.”

The statement said the fact that only the trio of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Abba Kyari; Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, and the Chief Financial Officer in charge of Finance and Accounts, Isiaka Abdulrazak, were managing the funds without appropriation, said a lot about the motive of the dubious subsidy regime.

Atiku said subsidy arrangement under President Buhari raises some questions that are begging for answers.

“Why was the NNPC spending sums of money to the tune of $ 3.5 billion or $1.05 billion even when it was fully aware of the powers of the National Assembly to appropriate on petroleum subsidy matters? Why did NNPC spokesman, Ndu Ughamadu lie about the source of the $1.05 billion? Why did he say it was a loan obtained from one of the international agencies when there was ample evidence to show that the money was taken from NLNG dividend account?” he queried.

“Could all the fuel that is claimed to be imported real or is it sheer scam to raise campaign funds for President Buhari? Where is President Buhari raising his campaign funds from when, his praise singers have taken over the air waves with messages running on time belts that cost hundreds of millions of naira?

“Where are the lavish Buhari Support Group and Buhari Campaign Organisation chanting ‘Next Level, drawing their funding from? Are these not all funded from the racket called National Fuel Support Fund, which has initial seed money of $1.05 billion released since the beginning of 2018?” Atiku asked.

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