On January 13 2017 the first convictions were handed down in a series of prosecutions commenced due to widespread fuel subsidy fraud, which reportedly cost the treasury more than $6 billion.

Investigations into the fraud commenced at the start of 2012, following the discovery of a discrepancy between the amount of motor fuel subsidised by the government and the country's actual consumption. Several million litres of fuel were discharged by vessels and the difference between the importation and sale costs was paid to marketers. However, much of what was reportedly imported (in respect of which subsidy payments were made) was never imported or was re-exported to neighbouring countries where fuel prices were significantly higher. The lower house of the National Assembly conducted an inquiry, in which the chair of the House of Representatives was filmed receiving a bribe from a marketer (who was not actually involved in the subsidy fraud) in a sting operation. The inquiry resulted in criminal charges.

Sentencing was adjourned as one of the convicted persons collapsed in the dock when the judge read the verdict. When the court reconvened, it was informed that the defendant was in intensive care and sentencing was adjourned for a further week, by which time the defendant had recovered sufficiently to appear in court and be sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment.

For further information on this topic please contact Babajide Oladipo Ogundipe at Sofunde Osakwe Ogundipe & Belgore by telephone (+234 1 462 2502) or email (boogundipe@sooblaw.com). The Sofunde Osakwe Ogundipe & Belgore website can be accessed at www.sooblaw.com.

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