The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria says Petroleum Equilisation Fund owes its members more than N42 billion bridging claims
| By Anayo Ezugwu | May 25, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, has attributed the lingering fuel scarcity to the non-payment of more than N42 billion bridging claims to its members by the Petroleum Equalisation Fund, PEF. The scarcity of the product which has lasted for several weeks is yet to abate as desperate motorists queue for a long time at few filling stations selling fuel. Most of the stations which dispense fuel sell at between N140 and N200 per litre instead of the regulated price of N87.
Chinedu Okoronkwo, national president, IPMAN, said members of the association were still complaining of being owed by PEF. “If people don’t get money, I don’t know how they can bring in products. That is a major issue they have to solve. There is no reason why we should not be paid that money. It is affecting the marketers. Some of them can’t even go and take products again,” he said.
IPMAN has more than 20,000 members across the country, with about three percent of the membership involved in importation of petroleum products, while the others depend largely on products from tank farms and government depots for distribution. When fuel is not readily available, it readily affects IPMAN. Okoronkwo said that most of the depots in Lagos, were not working due to vandalism. Asked the actual amount being owned the marketers, he said the association was putting a committee in place to ascertain the total.
By paying bridging claims to the marketers, PEF makes sure that there is uniform pump prices for petroleum products across the country and ensures that each marketing company complies with the law regarding the management of the transportation equalisation process. The agency equalises the transportation differentials in white product marketing.
But Sharon Kasali, immediate past executive secretary of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund Management Board, has said that petroleum marketers who complained of not receiving their bridging claims are mostly those involved in fraudulent activities. According to her, some fuel marketers are yet to be paid their bridging claims because their demands are unverified. She described the claims as attempts to rob the government.
Kasali spoke at the headquarters of the PEF in Abuja, on Monday, May 11, while handing over to Asabe Ahmed, her successor. She said PEF denied payment to a few marketers because it could not confirm if they loaded petroleum products at the depots. “If they were not paid, then it is because we could not confirm that they loaded (products). So, if you are talking to an official or somebody who has claims that have stuck, it is because they were not loaded. We’ve got to confirm this most times. In other words, it is fraud. A lot of people that used to do fraud in this system have packed up their business and genuine marketers are getting paid,” she said.
On allegations that the Project Aquila, an electronic verification system that was initiated by her regime, was fraught with inefficiencies and challenges, she said, “It is not true. The system is there for anybody to review. So, if 90 percent are getting certified for payments and the remaining are not, shouldn’t that say that the remaining five to 10 percent are having something wrong with them?”
The PEF bridging scheme was originally introduced as a temporary measure during the turn-around maintenance of the refineries wherein the government sought to encourage and support marketers in transporting petroleum products to all parts of the country. Although bridging was meant to be a temporary solution until the refineries were brought back to full capacity, the state of the refineries worsened over the years.
According to the agency, the initial projection was to have a maximum of 10 per cent of total petroleum products bridged, while the remaining portion would be pumped through the pipelines. “However, trend analyses indicate that bridging of products has consistently increased over the years to about 40 per cent,” it stated.