Marketers demand payment of N250b subsidy arrears by govt

• Petrol still N100 per litre in Enugu

• ‘Most citizens buy kerosene above official price’

THE Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) has pleaded with the Federal Government to pay its members outstanding subsidy claims of N250 billion for 2014.

  Besides, the association has directed all its members to adjust their pump price to reflect the new price of petrol announced by the government.

  Meanwhile, a poll conducted by NOIPolls to evaluate the perception of Nigerians towards kerosene consumption, purchase, usage, and pricing has revealed that majority of Nigerians (97%) buy Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) popularly known as kerosene above the official price of N50 per litre. Only a small proportion (2%) confirmed they bought the product at the official price. 

  The poll further revealed that almost eight in 10 Nigerians (77%) are unaware of the official price of kerosene, demonstrating that the subsidy enjoyed by Nigerians on petrol has not really impacted kerosene. Interestingly, more female (83%) than male (70%) respondents are unaware of the official price of kerosene, even though more females actually buy and make use of it for cooking (97%).

 An assessment of the use of kerosene in Nigeria revealed that 65% of Nigerians buy kerosene, and it is mainly used for cooking (96%). 

 “Affordability, availability and convenience play a great role in the preference of kerosene as a means for cooking, over other choices such as cooking gas, charcoal or firewood.

 “The findings clearly demonstrate that most of the marketers do not sell kerosene at the official price and this calls for more strict regulation and closer monitoring by regulatory organisations to ensure that Nigerians enjoy the subsidy on kerosene at the official price.

 “Also, awareness needs to be created by the government on the official price of kerosene, especially in the rural areas. This can be done through sensitization events, radio jingles and television adverts amongst other means, and tailored in the major languages of each region”, the poll concluded.

  The Executive Secretary of MOMAN, Obafemi Olawore, told journalists in Lagos yesterday that the claims include N155 billion outstanding subsidy and N97 billion outstanding payment for interest and foreign exchange. He said prompt payment of the claims is necessary to enable oil marketers to continue to import petroleum products into the country.

  Reacting to claims by the Federal Government that it had paid all subsidy arrears, Olawore stated: “The N166 billion paid to marketers last year was only a part payment of 2014 subsidy arrears and that was the only money the marketers got from government last year.  

“We appeal to the Ministry of Finance to approve payment of our subsidy claims because this had made it difficult for some marketers to get loans from banks. Because we are not paying ‘interest exchange’, banks are threatening to stop funding our business,” he said.

  He also frowned at the N200 billion budgeted for subsidy payment in the 2015, saying that the amount is inadequate to settle subsidy claims this year. Olawore urged the Federal Government to deregulate the downstream sector to bring an end to the issue of subsidy payment in the country. 

  He, however, said that for the deregulation process to be effective, there is need to resuscitate the country’s refineries, build adequate fuel reserves, tank farms and functional pipeline network.

  On the new price of petrol, Olawore said:  “When we got the news about the news fuel prices, we had to meet with the government yesterday because there was no details given on the directives. It is the right of the minister to announce any changes in price of fuel at any time. So, we do not have any problem with the new directive and we have urged all our members to comply.  We used to hear about any adjustment in pump prices before its announcement, but this situation is different. We did not get to hear about the price decrease and it was difficult for us to immediately adjust the pump price. Virtually all our members have complied with the new directive now”.

  But The Guardian learnt yesterday that marketers have continued to sell petrol between N100.00 and N97.00 per litre in Enugu State. Checks revealed that none of the filling stations owned by major or independent marketers have reversed to the new pump price of N87.00 per litre.

 Marketers were said to be insisting that what they were dispensing were stock acquired before the price reduction.

 The NNPC mega station at the triangle that started selling at N87 yesterday witnessed very long queue of vehicles. At Ogui road, where one of the major marketers is still selling N97.00, the female pump attendant said they had acquired the stock before government’s announcement, adding they may reverse when they get new supply.

 Along the Zik Avenue, Enugu, an independent marketer said the reduction in price was not meant for them “because we purchased from different locations”.

He said: “Some of us load at the Lagos depot while some load at the Port Harcourt depot. These products also come by road. When you compare what we spend or pass through to get supplies, you will appreciate why we are selling at N100”.

Some residents interviewed expressed joy over the reduction but called on the marketers to implement the new price regime. Chief John Onuoha who said he purchased petrol yesterday at N97, chided the marketers saying “if there had been an increase, they would have readjusted immediately but now that they have asked them to come down, it will be an issue. It is not fair”.

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