The federal government has given the assurance that it would commence payment of the outstanding N185 billion owed to fuel marketers. It also stressed that there was no reason for fuel queues to surface in the first place.
Minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who gave this assurance yesterday in Abuja, also gave the assurance that fuel would be available within 48 hours, as supplies were being expected.
The minister explained that the issue of financing was not the cause of the queues because the federal government and the marketers had reached an agreement last week about how the outstanding money would be paid.
“I want to emphasize that contrary to some unfounded speculations, the queues are not caused by payment issues. As you know, we paid the marketers a total of N320.8 billion from the Excess Crude account in two instalments in December last year. This underscores the fact that we are taking payment of marketers very seriously indeed. We’ve been in constant touch and talking with the marketers and, a week ago, we reached an agreement with them on their core concerns which we have addressed,” she said.
According to her, as part of the agreement reached last week, the federal government agreed to pay not only the costs the marketers had incurred and their fees but also the interest and forex differentials.
Also, the Debt Management Office (DMO) had issued sovereign debt notes (SDNs) to cover N100 billion out of the N185 billion agreed upon as balance for the next payments.
She also said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had also given approvals for the banks to issue letters of credit.
“It is clear that while the union and most members have been cooperative; some of their members are not. Some of these people have even refused to open LCs to facilitate their payments. We salute the union and the members who are working hard to end this unfortunate situation. As for those who are working in the other direction, Nigerians should ask them what their motives are,” she stated.
To end the situation as quickly as possible, Okonjo-Iweala said the petroleum ministry and NNPC are taking strong action to improve supplies in this election season.
“I’ve been speaking with MOMAN and they’ve assured me that they are working hard to increase supplies, and more are on the way. Forty million litres of product are being distributed in Lagos today. As at yesterday, 86 trucks had come into Lagos and another 86 trucks were heading to Abuja. Other parts of the country are also included in the plans. So the situation should improve soon.”
She sympathised with Nigerians for the difficult situation and saluted them for their patience, promising that the situation would be over as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) has begun bringing in petroleum product to stabilise the system.
Executive secretary of the association, Obafemi Olawore, told LEADERSHIP on telephone yesterday that what Nigerians were experiencing was as a result of depletion of products at the depot., Olawore also corroborated finance minister’s explanation that government had not reneged in the agreement reached last week for the payment of the subsidy claim, but said the situation was aggravated due to marketers’ inability to import the quantity they usually did.
“What happened actually was that when government did not pay, we stopped importing same volume as before, so we started running out of stock,” he said.
On the pump price disparity, Olawore said it remains N87 per litre and no major marketer was allowed to sell above that price.
“Please if you have such report, kindly let me know. No matter the location, there should not be price disparity,’ he insisted.
He urged Nigerians to desist from panic buying as there were serious efforts by all stakeholders to stabilise the system.
Labour demands quick end to fuel scarcity
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has said it is shocked at the return of fuel scarcity and unbearable queues on the roads.
The Congress described the current scarcity being experienced in some parts of the country as an unpleasant development that has cut short the relief workers felt when the pump price was reduced by the federal government in January, 2015.
The Congress, in a statement by its president, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama, and general-secretary, Comrade Musa Lawal, called for an urgent approach to end the scarcity.
TUC faults politicians for blame game
The TUC also expressed dissatisfaction over politicians trading blames instead of addressing the problem of fuel scarcity and helping the economy to do better.
The statement made available by the TUC general-secretary, Comrade Lawal, yesterday, criticised politicians for not addressing issues and how they intend to help the economy to do better, rather they are busy dwelling on personal attacks.