Fuel Crisis: Nigerian govt., marketers fail to reconcile subsidy claims

Petroleum products marketers are scheduled to meet the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Monday to reconcile claims over outstanding fuel subsidy bill not yet paid by the Federal Government.

The marketers, made up of the Major Oil Marketers Association (MOMAN) and the Depot & Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA) say after paying N154 billion on Thursday, the government still has an outstanding subsidy of N200 billion to them.

The federal government on its part, said the outstanding payment due to the marketers based on weekly data by Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) template cannot be more than N131 billion, from the initial N98 billion.

MOMAN consists the six major oil marketing firms, including Oando, Conoil, Forte Oil, MRS, Total and Mobil Oil, while DAPPMA consists independent products marketers who own fuel depots, storage and marketing facilities in the country.

On Thursday last week, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala had announced at the end of the Federal Executive Council that the government had approved the immediate disbursement N156 billion to the marketers.

The payment was part of the government’s efforts to restore normalcy in fuel supply following the decision of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) to withdraw their services to MOMAN over alleged N21 billion debts.

NARTO is the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG) affiliate body responsible for the transportation of the petroleum products from the depots to the various retail outlets across the country.

MOMAN had said its members would not be able to settle their obligations to NARTO till government settled its outstanding debt that accumulated since December 2013.

Despite the Minister’s claim of payment of N156 billion to the marketers, the Executive Secretary, of DAPPMA, Odufemi Adewole, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview on Monday that none of its members had confirmed receiving payments.

“Up till now (Monday morning), none of my members have confirmed receiving their money”, Mr. Adewole said. “Some marketers were at the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) till about 7 p.m. on Thursday (last week), nobody got a kobo.

“Apart from the fact that most marketers have not received what the government said it had paid, we are going to press for the payment of the balance of N200 billion.”

The Executive Secretary of MOMAN, Obafemi Olawore, told reporters in Lagos that some of its members received payment N154 billion, not N156 billion.

Mr. Olawore corroborated his DAPPMA counterpart’s claim that government was still having an outstanding payment of about N200 billion to make to the marketers.

The total amount, the DAPPMA scribe explained, included Foreign Exchange differential and interest (N215.9 billion); Batch T14 subsidy payment (N21.9 billion); Batch U14 payment (N8.6 billion); Batch A15 payment (N6.9 billion) and Batch B15 payment (N2.9 billion) as well as posted dated sovereign debt note (SDN) that fell due on April 30 (N98.2 billion).

Mr. Adewole said what marketers expect from the government was for a post-dated SDN to be issued covering the period till the end of the May, as nobody was sure the incoming administration would honour such payments when it assumes office.

“The Minister has called us to Lagos, Abuja and everywhere for a meeting, but nothing appears to be coming out. We are being invited to Abuja again today (Monday). But, we need to let everybody know what is going on.

“We are sounding this note of warning now that we are not paid, so that everybody should be ready for job losses in the industry, because the marketers would downsize. That is the next inevitable option, which nobody wants.

“This money does not belong to us. A big chunk of it belongs to the banks. Let the government give the marketers on time for them to return to the banks,” Mr. Adewole said.

Mr. Olawore had also warned that marketers have already given the government a two-week ultimatum to pay the remaining N200 billion outstanding debt, or risk the withdrawal of their services.

However, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala had on Sunday faulted the marketers claims, 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.

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