There are strong indications that the subsidy impasse between the federal government and oil marketers would be resolved this week as plans by the government to offset the outstanding claims have been firmed up.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream Sector, Senator Kabiru Marafa, told State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja, that the matter was receiving serious attention from the president.
He said: “Finally, today (yesterday) I have had quality time with Mr. President and we have looked into the whole thing. By next week, we will invite all the stakeholders. I believe we should be able to get to the root of the matter.
“As for the depots’ owners, we are going to plead with them again to give us more time, especially now that we have discussed with the head of the Executive arm of government. So, I’m sure everything will be resolved in the next few days,’’ he said.
Senator Marafa admitted that there were efforts by some persons to sabotage the government’s efforts at resolving the fuel subsidy claims and cause scarcity of the product in the country. He said that the government had provided enough quantity of petroleum products across the country that can last for six months.
According to him, “basically, there are two issues: One is regarding the committee I chair in the Senate, that is the committee on downstream, and there has been some disquiet in the industry regarding marketers’ payment with the Federal Ministry of Finance, Debt Management Office (DMO) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which we feel if not carefully handled, some enemies of the administration might bring about technical issues that could lead to queues on the line.
“The government has provided enormous quantities of petroleum products across the country that can last the country up to six months through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). So, some people are not too happy about it and they want to sabotage the efforts of the government.
“So, I’m the chairman and the president being the minister of petroleum resources, I came to share information and tap on his versatile experience in the industry as a former minister of petroleum resources 40 years ago, so there is abundant experience there,” he said.
On the threat by depots’ owners to shut down which may affect Nigerians during the coming yuletide, Marafa replied: “That is what I meant. So, we are now talking of technicalities; there is fuel in the country, in our seas, in our depots across the country.
“But there are some technicalities now regarding payment of subsidies, forex differentials and interest, which this government inherited. They are not a creation of this government,” he stated.
He however pointed out that government is a continuum, stating that when the president came in he was confronted with it and said: “Fine, I have stopped subsidy but since there are claims, we will look into it and pay. But now the bureaucratic nature of the computations is what dragged up to this time and depots’ owners are not too happy with what the Ministry of Finance has done and may be some other agencies. So, we have been on it in the Senate and the House of Representatives for almost two weeks now.”
A source within the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN) told LEADERSHIP yesterday that the group was working on better ways to resolving the issues with the government. He said that oil marketers are not opposed to a win-win situation on the issue.
DAPPMAN had earlier suspended its directive to shut down depots nationwide and had given the federal government a five-day grace to pay part of the outstanding debt which it owed the marketers. The grace period elapsed today.
The association’s executive secretary, Olufemi Adewole, said that the shutdown was suspended to give the government time to fulfil its promise.
Marafa also spoke on the political situation of his Zamfara State. When asked if the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship ticket has been resolved in the state, he replied: “We are still on it. We are in court and hopefully we believe in the next couple of weeks, maybe two weeks from now, the court will provide the way forward. We all know what happened and it will be prejudicial now to start discussing the issues on the pages of newspapers or television. We are on our way to an amicable resolution of the problems.”
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