Government, oil marketers disagree over subsidy arrears

Oil field. PHOTO: Karen Bleier / AFP

The Federal Government has disagreed with Independent Oil Marketers over N1 trillion arrears of subsidy payment claimed by the oil dealers.

The government said the unpaid debt was N386 billion.

But the Senate, in its resolution, had directed the Ministry of Finance to hold a meeting with the oil marketers and other stakeholders to agree on the grey areas and report back within one week.

This controversy followed an interactive hearing organised yesterday by the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), involving oil marketers, relevant government agencies and other stakeholders, scheduled to end the lingering debt crisis.

Chairman of the committee, Kabiru Marafa, said the oil marketers had earlier submitted a bill of N650 billion but government later reviewed the bill to N429 billion and eventually gave an approval of N386 billion.

However, the N386 billion as okayed by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) came with a condition that subjected its implementation to the appointment of an international audit firm that would comprehensively review and ascertain the veracity of the claims by the oil dealers.

Also, the payment was said to be made not in cash, but by a promissory note.

Director-General, Debt Management Office (DMO), Mrs. Patience Oniha, said: “Like I said, we had already started working. One of the conditions for payment included in the approval by FEC was the appointment of an international audit firm who would do a review of the claims. It is after that we can proceed.

“As the permanent secretary said, these are promissory notes. We are not paying in cash. If it were to be in cash, it wouldn’t have come to DMO, it would have gone for appropriation.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary, Deport and Petroleum Products Marketers of Nigeria, Olufemi Adewole, said the processes highlighted for payment by the government were inimical to the operations of their businesses.

He said: “The processes they have highlighted is killing our businesses. Immediately the banks read in the media that the National Assembly had approved, they went to court, got injunction and seized our assets.”

Also, Chairman, Integrated Oil and Gas Ltd, Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho (rtd), said the bill and accompanying discount approved by the government was not only arbitrary but mischievous.

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