Fed Govt, oil marketers fail to agree on subsidy balance

From left: Olawore; Dr. Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of State for Finance Bashir Yuguda; Executive Secretary, Petroleum Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Mr. Farouk Ahmed at  meeting...yesterday.

 PHOTO: NAN•Buhari may inherit debt

DESPITE meeting for several hours yesterday, the Federal Government and the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) failed to agree on government’s indebtedness to members of the association.

But the disagreement notwithstanding, the oil marketers assured Nigerians that filling stations will start to dispense fuel nationwide in a matter of days.

The acute fuel shortage eased yesterday in Lagos as many filling stations sold product to motorists.

Leading representatives of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala met with oil marketers, led by MOMAN’s Executive Secretary, Mr. Obafemi  Olowore.

Also at the meeting were Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) officials led the Governor of the apex institution, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and owners of fuel depots.

At the end of the meeting in Abuja, both parties could not give a consensus figure on the exact amount outstanding after the payment of N154 billion by the Federal Government at the weekend.

The government and the marketers had disagreed on the subsidy claim balance, which Dr. Okonjo-Iweala maintained, was N131 billion but the oil marketers put the balance at N200 billion.

The minister noted that it will be difficult to get the exact amount of debt owed the marketers because of what she called the “rolling”nature of the business.

According to her, the outstanding claims will be paid even after the assumption of office by a new government.

Her words: “The understanding reached with the marketers, is that all the outstanding debts owed will be paid based on claims processed by Petroleum Pricing Products Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).

“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 PPPRA may have cleared some more Sovereign Debt Notes and as we speak, the Executive Secretary of PPPRA has been clearing and certifying payments and that is why it is really not a fixed sum.”

She urged Nigerians not to “get fixated to that particular amount because once they keep supplying fuel to the country, there will always be something to pay and government is a continuum.”

The minister was suggesting that the incoming administration might have to continue with the policy after President Goodluck Jonathan leaves office on May 29.

Also speaking,  Olawore told reporters at the end of the meeting: “What we are saying is this; there is a figure of N200 billion and there is another figure of N131 billion or so. First, we must get it clear. At what point did we pick that figure”?

“If I’m going to calculate, I will end with what I have supplied today but it depends on the figure that the PPPRA has sent to DMO (Debt Management Office) and the DMO has to scrutinise and send it to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy (CME).

“So, my documents have not passed the process so that is why there is this disparity,” the MOMAN chief said.

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