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Fed Govt, oil marketers fail to agree on subsidy balance, set up reconciliation committee

By The Citizen
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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

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said yesterday that the Federal Government has addressed all contentious issues with the marketers. She listed such issued to include foreign exchange rate differentials for which N6 trillion will be paid to mitigate the losses of the marketers.

She informed that the Federal Government was in talks with the marketers in the last 10 days.

The minister said: 'President Goodluck Jonathan wants Nigerians to know that his administration is working on the situation and is aiming to resolve the issue in the shortest possible time.

'At the Federal Executive Council meeting, the issue was discussed in terms of pushing forward and making sure things get back to normal.'

She urged the marketers to be patriotic in their dealings with the government as the issue affects all and sundry, even as she commended Nigerians for their patience.

The minister suggested that the incoming administration may have to take a firm stand to check incessant lockdown by oil marketers over payments for imported products or renegotiate fresh terms with for the government to have room to deliver on its electoral promises.

In his own remark, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele said the apex bank had met with banks and oil marketers to resolve all the contending issues associated with credit facilities.

Emefiele stated that in the last one week, over $500 million worth of Letters of Credit had been opened by banks on behalf of the marketers.

He called on any marketer who is experiencing delays in their Letters of Credit to alert the CBN, promising to step in and ensure amicable resolution.

Olawore, who spoke for the marketers, stated that long queues will disappear for filling stations in a couple of days, as the marketers had moved 495 truckloads of fuel to Lagos, Abuja and environs.

According to him, massive movement of fuel have been transported in the last three days, while three of its members have imported three cargoes of petrol based on the agreements reached with the CBN and the finance ministry.

His words: 'Major marketers moved 132 truckloads of fuel to Lagos, while 87 truckloads were moved to Abuja, and this is exclusive to the quantity moved by the NNPC, independent marketers and other marketers.

'No fewer than 137 trucks were moved to Lagos, while 139 trucks were moved to Abuja. You can see that the amount we moved to Abuja was far more than the quantity we moved on Monday. It normally takes between three and four days to transport fuel from Lagos to Abuja; hence we believe the queues will ease off by weekend, latest.

'Our actions are deliberate, to ensure that the queues vanish and normalcy returns. I want to tell Nigerians that tougher days are over; normalcy is expected to return pretty soon.' The Nation