By Nduka Chiejina and John Ofikhenua, Abuja
The Federal Government has called the bluff of oil marketers, as fuel queues continue to grow in Abuja .
Many stations have refused to sell petrol in the nation’s capital.
The government is insisting that oil marketers indicted in the fuel subsidy probe will not be paid. The fuel crisis, the government said, is limited to Abuja.
Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told reporters yesterday that “so far N42.66 billion has been paid to marketers that have been verified. Those who have queries or big question marks from probe committee will not be paid.
“Some of those who have been told have a case to answer are holding the country to ransom, they have resorted to cheap blackmail of government and government will not give in to that.”
The government, she said, “will look at those with slight infraction and see what can be done. “Government is willing to talk with those with slight infraction and they may continue to import but those with serious infractions should forget it because government will not give in to their blackmail.”
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said she would be meeting with some marketers because “government is open and willing to work with marketers but not willing to be blackmailed because there is no lack of willingness on the part of government to dialogue.”
To show that the government was ready to confront the oil marketers, she claimed are blackmailing the government, the finance minister said government “will be happy to publish the list of those that have been paid and those not paid. No association is bigger than Nigeria, and oil marketers cannot hold the nation to ransom.”
She admitted that government was owing some marketers but noted that her ministry “will net out debts because government is owing some marketers and some marketers are owing government so we will net out the debts to know who and what to pay.”
However, before the payments are made, the minister vowed that the finance ministry “will verify all payments in line with the demands of the people.”
Government, she noted, is willing to encourage patriotic investors interested in building refineries,
She said the federal government has released N300 billion third quarter capital allocations from 2012 budget.
A total of N704 billion capital allocation has now been released meaning that about 53 per cent of total annual budget has been released so far. The minister said “as at the end of July 2012, the utilization of the earlier N404 billion released is now 65.4 per cent, so it has gone up.”
She reiterated that as at the end of June 2012, the N404 billion released witnessed 56 per cent utilisation.
According to the finance minister, “this government is releasing the additional N300 billion as government’s commitment to full implementation of the 2012 budget and to make sure that the finances are available to the MDAs to execute their projects. MDAs have stepped up their pace of utilization of funds.”
She said President Goodluck Jonathan has authorised the expedited payment of August salary for all federal civil servants so that they can enjoy the holidays.
Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison- Madueke also yesterday urged oil marketers, whose action has culminated in fuel scarcity in Abuja to cooperate with the Federal Ministry of Finance to suspend their industrial action.
She spoke after the inaugural meeting of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Board.
While assuring Nigerians that the crisis has nothing to do with shortage of petroleum products, she said the NNPC and the Petroleum Products and Pipeline Marketing Company (PPMC) have enough stock in their reservoirs that could last between 40 and 45 days.
The Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA) and the Jetties and Petroleum Tank Farms Owners of Nigeria (JEPTFON) on Wednesday warned the general public of likely fuel scarcity should the Federal Ministry of Finance fail to pay them their legitimate subsidy claims since 2012.
The Minister of Petroleum said: “It is with a great deal of concern that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources has noticed the queues at our filling stations, particularly here in Abuja. I want to assure the Nigerian public that NNPC and PPMC have no scarcity of products. And that in fact, we have about 40 to 45days stock consumption in our reserves at this time.
“Having said that, it is clear that the Ministry of Finance is working very hard at this time to address the situation at hand. And I will like to appeal particularly to the marketers to please cooperate with the Federal Government , particularly as we go into ide-fitirel and to find a way and mean and work with the Federal Government of ensuring that the strike is brought to a very quick end.”
To the newly inaugurated board members of the corporation, Madueke said their appointment is a call to duty which also requires the support of the NNPC top management in steering the corporation in the desired direction.
She noted that despite the recent achievements in the sector, the corporation is confronted with many challenges.
The minister said “We must continue to ensure good corporate governance and efficient and judicious use of the corporation’s resources, as we await the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill into law.”
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