By Jide Ajani and Yemi Adeoye

 


*Fuel scarcity may spread nationwide this week
*Finance ministry promises prompt payment after Sallah
*Conflicting subsidy claims all round

There were indications, at the weekend, that President Goodluck Jonathan and two of his ministers, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Diezani Allison-Madueke, in charge of Finance as well as doubling as the Co-ordinating minister for the economy, and the Petroleum Resources Minister, respectively, have been under immense pressure arising from the impending fuel scarcity that has already paralysed the Federal Capital territory, FCT, Abuja.

In fact, information made available to Sunday Vanguard yesterday suggested the quartet of the Jetty and Petroleum Tank Farm Owners, JEPTFON, Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, DAPPMAN, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, and the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, MOMAN, have decided to cease further importation and distribution once the stock they have is depleted.

Curiously, whereas the Finance Ministry claims to be settling subsidy payments, the figures being thrown around by marketers and importers as well as depot owners are not the same.

President Jonathan and Petroleum Minister, Diezani

While the Finance Ministry claims to have facilitated the issuance of N42.666 Sovereign Debt Notes between April and August this year, “this is just a paltry amount when placed side by side the hundreds of billions being owed MOMAN”, a source said.

In addition, a DAPPMAN source says says members of the group are also being owed claims in excess of one hundred billion naira.

At the crux of the matter, Sunday Vanguard has been made to understand, is “that the nation’s purse can not sustain the payment of subsidy in any form”.Sources said the crippling of economic activities in the federal capital, occasioned by fuel scarcity, was largely the consequence of the strike embarked upon by petrol tanker drivers’ arm of the National Union of Petroleum and National Gas Workers, NUPENG.

It was gathered that the “situation is so critical that the Petroleum Resources Minister  met with President Jonathan mid-last week to give him a clearer picture of the situation, as against the assurances being given by the Finance Minister.

“The President was told that whereas he should not be seen to be negotiating with those that have been indicted and would be facing prosecution, the fact remains that people are being owed huge sums of money and they would need to be paid, “one of the sources said.

“The pressure on government was brought to laid bare last week when the seat of power, Abuja, witnessed serious scarcity”.

This development is already creating a frosty relationship between the Finance Minister and her Petroleum Resources counterpart.

Indeed, the Petroleum Resources Minister, who was said to be involved in high level consultations at the weekend, “was practically begging operators in the industry to save the nation from the crisis created by the Finance Ministry’s handling of the matter”.

Sunday Vanguard learnt that the leadership of the tanker drivers group mounted surveillance in major entry points of the federal capital last and ensured that no products was delivered into Abuja.

This, the drivers have vowed, would be replicated across the country this week.

Chiefly at the heart of the subsidy payment crisis, another industry operator said, is the “glaring conflict of interest in the appointment of Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Chief Executive of Access Bank, which allegedly participated in the funding of over 30% of activities in the petroleum product importation, to chair the Presidential Committee on Verification and Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy Payments.”

His committee indicted 21 companies. Aig-Imoukhuede said, while presenting his report, that, out of the N422 billion earlier found to have been unaccounted for, N18 billion was actually a duplication while only N403 billion was verified.
N21 billion was cleared, leaving N382 billion as the sum in contention, the basis for which the committee recommended that the process of recovery should be made.

A total of 116 oil marketing and trading companies (OM&Ts) that participated in the petroleum subsidy scheme in the period under review were invited for interviews.  Six categories of issues, likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation – you have 21 OM&Ts affected.

 

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