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Fuel Scarcity: FG to Pay Marketers N156bn Today

Minister-of-Finance-Dr.-Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala-360x225The Federal Government on Wednesday expressed concern about the scarcity of petrol being witnessed in most parts of the country, stating that oil marketers would today (Thursday) receive the sum of N156bn as arrears of their subsidy claims.
The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, stated this in Abuja in an interview with journalists shortly after declaring open the 20th conference of Directors General of Customs of the World Customs Organisation.
The minister, while expressing sympathy with Nigerians, whose lives were being disrupted by long queues at filling stations, gave an assurance that the government was working to end the scarcity within the shortest time possible.
She said despite the revenue challenges facing the government, the issue of fuel subsidy payment to marketers had always been prioritised by the Federal Government.
For instance, she said the government had in December 2014 paid the sum of N350bn to the marketers, noting that additional N31bn in foreign exchange differentials had already been released.
Okonjo-Iweala said, “On the issue of oil marketers, we have really been working with them and we have been dialoguing with them all along. We paid N350bn in December and we paid them N31bn in foreign exchange differentials; and by tomorrow (Thursday), we will be paying them N100bn for which we had earlier given them IOUs as well as their interest rate differentials of N56bn.
“So, I am about to go and sign to get that paid and I think that Nigerians can see that the government is making maximum efforts to accommodate the oil marketers. They are also Nigerians and they need to also cooperate with us.
“As I leave here, I am going to sign for them to get another N156bn; N100bn in the IOUs, which is due tomorrow, and N56bn in interest rate differentials.”
The Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria and the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association and MOMAN had put the aggregate subsidy arrears owed the marketers by the Federal Government at N356.2bn.
Of this amount, the government had made provision for Sovereign Debt Notes of N100bn, which are expected to mature at the end of this month.
The balance of N256.2bn comprises actual subsidy arrears for part of 2014 and so far this year, and the foreign exchange differentials and bank interests.
The Executive Secretary, MOMAN, Mr. Thomas Olawore, had said that members were increasingly finding it difficult to continue importation of petrol and that the market situation was getting tougher.
He had said, “Some days ago, the National Assembly approved the budget without any provisions for petrol subsidy and nobody is talking to us. We want to know if we should still continue with what we are currently doing. We want to know who will be paying for subsidy on petrol going forward. Ultimately, we want to know who pays for the amount owed us.
“There is an outgoing government as well as an incoming one. Where do we stand? We need to get our money because our suppliers are on our necks.”
But the Finance minister called for understanding from the marketers as a result of the persistent shortfall in gross federally collectible revenue.
She noted that the marketers, being Nigerians, should be patriotic in their business dealings with the government.
“In this very difficult environment, where revenues are constrained, we are doing our maximum. We have prioritised them because we do not want Nigerians to suffer. Now, they too must cooperate with Nigeria and be good and patriotic citizens,” Okonjo-Iweala added.
Similarly, the Minister of Information, Patricia Akwashiki, assured Nigerians that the queues at filling stations in some parts of the country would soon ease off.
She confirmed that the Ministry of Finance would today (Thursday) begin the process of offsetting some of the government’s liabilities in the sector.
Akwashiki spoke with State House correspondents at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting.
She said it was not true that the present administration was leaving the mess for the incoming government to clear.
She said, “I want to assure you that we have enough fuel to supply and the problem is not that we do not have fuel on the ground, we have a problem with the tanker drivers and it borders on non-payment.
“But from tomorrow (Thursday), the Coordinating Minister of the Economy is going to start paying off some of the liabilities we have in that sector and it (scarcity) will ease off. But we do have enough fuel on ground to last us for 27 days; that I can assure you, even if we are consuming four million litres per day.
“But the problem we have is logistics and the problems with the unions and non-payment. So, you don’t have to wait for the Buhari administration to fix it; we can fix it and we have been fixing it.”
On the delay in the payment of the salaries of civil servants, Okonjo-Iweala gave an assurance that they would be paid before Friday.
“Salaries are being paid and between today and tomorrow, I am sure you will all receive alerts,” she added.

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