Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, finance minister has met with the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) with an assurance that the scarcity of petrol being experienced in different parts of the country would soon be a thing of the past.
It was resolved at the meeting, which was attended by representatives of MOMAN and some senior officials in the finance ministry, that the outstanding subsidy claims would be paid even after a new government must have taken over power.
At the end of the over four-hour meeting, Okonjo-Iweala, who briefed journalists in the company of Thomas Olawore, executive secretary, MOMAN, said the issues that led to the scarcity had been resolved.
She said based on the discussions at the meeting, the federal government and the marketers had agreed to bring an end to the current fuel scarcity.
The minister said, “We have appealed to them (marketers) and you have heard them saying that following the payment of the N154 billion, 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).
Okonjo-Iweala also said, “what I want you to understand is 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.”
Olawore on his part 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 trucks 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.”
Okonjo-Iweala and the oil marketers had earlier disagreed over what was owed as subsidy following the payment of N154bn by the government last week.
While the marketers claimed that they were still being owed N200.2bn, the minister said the amount outstanding was about N131bn.
In another development, members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA) have accused the federal government of neglecting them in the payment of petrol subsidy claims.
They accused MOMAN of overshadowing other marketers, thereby denying them the required attention from the government; this prompted members of the two bodies to shut their doors against transporters of petroleum products and refuse to allow any form of product lifting at their depots.
The nationwide strike by the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners and the Petroleum Tanker Drivers, which was called off recently after the federal government had paid some of the subsidy arrears owed the marketers, had only seen the transporters lifting products from the depots owned by MOMAN members.
The transporters have been denied access to depots owned by IPMAN and DAPPMA members.

Johnson Alabi
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