Okonjo-Iweala Relocate to Lagos… As FG Set to Resolve Fuel, PHCN, Labour Crisis
Huhuonline.com understands that the Federal Government of Nigeria is making frantic efforts to avert an imminent industrial crises involving NUPENG , oil marketers , Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria (PHCN) staff and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
A statement, issued on Monday by Dr Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Public Affairs and made available to Huhuonline.com, expressed the Federal Government's discomfort with the present rumpus in Nigeria's fuel subsidy management after the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede Presidential Committee on Fuel Subsidy Payments report listed 21 indicted companies.
Although the Federal Ministry of Finance had in a statement dated August 17, 2012, alleged that those behind the current strikes are indicted oil marketers who fraudulently obtained public funds in the guise of fuel subsidy claims, Okupe's statement dated Monday, 20 August 2012, disclosed that: 'The Federal Government is making serious and intense efforts at averting what may seem to be a looming industrial crises involving NUPENG , oil marketers , Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria staff and the Nigeria Labour Congress.
'The approach taken by government at resolving this crisis is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. The Ministers of Labour, Power, and other high level officers of government have met for several hours with the aggrieved PHCN workers and virtually all their demands have been agreed upon except for the issue severance benefits of workers. While the workers insist on their terms of employment, government's proposition is based on the Pension Act of 2004. However, this matter will most probably be resolved favourably within the coming week by the Presidency.
'In the same vein, the coordinating minister of the economy and Finance minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo - Iweala has shifted her base temporarily to Lagos in spite of the holidays and has been engaged intensively also with the aggrieved marketers , union members and other stakeholders in the downstream sector.
'All indications are to the effect that favourable resolutions are being reached and all matters are likely to be resolved within this week, as all these efforts are being made to ensure that the crisis that has caused a lot of hardships to commuters and motorists is not unduly prolonged and does not also extend beyond the city of Abuja in the case of the fuel scarcity.
'The Federal Government therefore urges Nigerians to be calm, as all hands are on deck to ensure that normalcy returns soonest.'
Recall that the coordinating minister of the economy and Finance minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had in its statement revealed that government paid 31 oil marketers the sum of N42.67billion between April and August, and another N17billion to 14 oil marketers with a claim of between April and May.
She had also vowed that the Federal Government would fully investigate indicted oil marketers' activities and bring them to book if found guilty, they while all public funds fraudulently obtained by them in the guise of fuel subsidy claims would be recovered.
Meanwhile, the following the continued face-off between the Federal Government and the 21 indicted major oil marketers over subsidy claims, the marketers have challenged the federal government to publish the names of marketers and traders they paid subsidy claims to in 2012.
Huhuonline.com understands that two of the marketers, Oando and Conoil had insisted they were not guilty, and daring the federal government not to place the cart before the horse but to wait for the outcome of sundry pending litigations negotiations.
Other indictees claim that where over 170 companies were indicted in the Aig-Imoukhuede's report, the federal government had singled out 21 for criminal investigation, urging the federal government go to court to prove their case against the marketers if they are sure of their claims.
But while the face-off lasts, petroleum products have remained scarce as the marketers and traders have threatened to shut down their tanks this week if government did not pay outstanding claims running into trillions of Naira.
Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Oando Group, Mr. Wale Tinubu, had denied that any member company of his Group was indicted for any wrong doing, arguing that the investigation is a step in the right direction, adding that those who are found to have committed some infraction should be made to pay the penalty so that government can recover some of the monies that were misappropriated. He further explained that his company was listed because it is seeking payment for products delivered.
Also a top management of Conoil, had expressed surprise that 'The Ministry of Finance demanded for additional documents, which we have submitted. While waiting for them to get back to us on the matter, they now published our name in the paper'.