Row over Fuel Subsidy

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Okonjo-Iweala

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Nigerians are still suffering from scarcity of fuel as the federal government and the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria bicker over fuel subsidy

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  May 18, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT  |

FUEL scarcity is still biting hard in the country despite the efforts made by the federal government to pay the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, MOMAN, fuel subsidy owed to them.  Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy said that the government paid N154 billion to the marketers while the marketers claim that N156 billion had being paid to them.

But the minister said that the issues that led to the scarcity had been resolved. She said based on the discussions at the meeting with MOMAN, they had agreed to bring an end to the current fuel scarcity. “We have appealed to them (marketers) and you have heard them saying that following the payment of the N154bn, things will ease off. We have spent a considerable time talking about this and we welcome the news announced by the marketers and we thank them. On our own side, we have discussed the issues they have put on the table and we are looking into them; government is a continuum and you will find out that whatever the issues are, they will be resolved so that Nigerians will not suffer.”

When asked how the controversy surrounding the actual subsidy arrears being owed the marketers was resolved, the minister said it would be difficult to get the exact figure owing to what she described as the “rolling” nature of the business. She, however, said with the understanding reached with the marketers, all the outstanding debts would be paid based on the claims processed by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA.

“What I want you to understand that this is a rolling business and there is no one definitive figure. Even as we talk today, by the time we leave, the executive secretary of the PPPRA may have cleared some more Sovereign Debt Notes. “As we speak, the executive secretary has been clearing and certifying payments, and that is why it is really not a fixed sum. We shouldn’t get fixated about that particular number because once they keep supplying fuel to Nigerians, there will always be something to pay and government is continuous. When we came in, there was money owed and we have continued to clear the money as we go.”

Also speaking, Olawore gave an assurance that the fuel scarcity would end within the week. “You all recall that there were some issues about the movement of products to some retail outlets following the release of the last payment of N154 billion; the owners of the trunks have agreed to allow their trucks to start loading. They have been loading and the scarcity in Lagos, is beginning to get better. Because of the distance from Lagos to Abuja, it will take some time before Abuja gets to its normal position; but in a couple of days, you will see that Abuja will also have the relief you normally know of,” he said.

When asked about the outstanding debt owed the marketers, Olawore said, “It depends on the figure the PPPRA gives to the Debt Management Office and the DMO scrutinises it and send it to the Ministry of Finance. So, the person that is doing the movement will do it to the last day and my document may not have passed through this process and that is why we have the disparity.”

MOMAN had claimed the​y were still owed N200 billion after the government paid them N154 billion on Thursday, April 30. The money was to enable the marketers settle the National Association of Road Transport Owners that withdrew their services over alleged N21 billion debt causing fuel scarcity. Olawore had also warned that marketers have already given the government a two-week ultimatum to pay the remaining N200 billion outstanding debts or risk the withdrawal of their services.

But the minister on Sunday, May 3, faulted the marketers, saying after the latest payment of N156 billion, in addition to N31 billion paid earlier as exchange rate differentials, the outstanding balance was N98 billion. “Since we made the announcement last week, the outstanding payment has now risen from N98 billion to N131 billion,” the minister said, wondering why the marketers would be demanding N200 billion.

Meanwhile, members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria and the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association have accused the federal government of neglecting them in the payment of fuel subsidy claims. They said the MOMAN was overshadowing other marketers, thereby denying them the required attention from the government. It was gathered that the members of the two bodies had shut their doors against transporters of petroleum products and refused to allow any form of product lifting at their depots.

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