- Category: Latest
- Published on Thursday, 16 August 2012 23:24
- Written by Admin
[PUNCH] Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Thursday said the Federal Government was willing to negotiate with oil marketers indicted for subsidy fraud in order to encourage them to import fuel. The minister said the indicted marketers considered qualified for dialogue with the government were those whose infractions
were not “too grievous”. She said this even as she insisted that government would not submit to blackmail by oil marketers who had queries over subsidy payments made to them in the past.
Okonjo-Iweala said at a media briefing in Abuja that, “Those who we consider their infractions not too grievous, we are willing to talk to them and if they are willing to work with us, we would also be willing to settle their claims so that they can go and import.
“But to some of those who are bent on blackmailing the Federal Government even though they have committed very serious infractions in the subsidy, we are not willing to pay them when they have not cleared their case.”
The minister said this while reacting to allegations by some marketers that they were being owed billions of naira for imported fuel.
Okonjo-Iweala said government, after the verification exercise, had been making payments to genuine marketers, adding that only those being prosecuted have their funds withheld.
She threatened that the government would publish the names of marketers who had received the payments within the period in question and those confirmed with infractions.
The minister said, “We will not pay those who had queries as to whether the subsidy payments made to them were really due to them. Those under investigation or have question marks from the committee were not paid. We paid those that had a clean bill between April and August.
“Now what has happened is that some of those who have been told that they have a case to answer have organised and want to hold the nation to ransom. As Nigerians we have said that we want to do the right thing; and we are trying to do the right thing, we have had this investigation.
The minister’s reaction came just as some oil marketers met with her to find a lasting solution to the fuel crisis being witnessed in some parts of the country.
Those present at the meeting were the Minister of State for Finance, Dr Yerima Ngama, the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation Dr Bright Okogu; the DG, Debt Managament Office, Mr Abraham Nwankwo, representatives of Nipco Plc, Oando Plc, Energy Oil, Folawiyo Group, Sahara Group, among others.
At the meeting, parties agreed to appraise the issues surrounding the outstanding claims with a view to finally determining the net payments due each of the importers.
The Minister explained that government was willing to listen to all marketers with genuine claims and attend to them as a way of forestalling any crisis that might be caused by some indicted marketers that have embarked on cheap blackmail in the downstream sub-sector of the petroleum industry.
She explained, “We are talking about the fact that they have outstanding claims which have not been paid and that is the basis of the dialogue and as I have said to you earlier, yes they have outstanding claims, we also have claims outstanding against them and that is what the dialogue is all about.
“So, we will dialogue with each other on these claims and hopefully at the end of this, we will be able to come to some agreement about the net claims that will be paid and then we will be able to move on. We are very willing to listen if there are genuine people that want to talk with government.”
Meanwhile, fuel stations in Abuja on Thursday did not sell to motorists, thus worsening the queues noticed around the Federal Capital City since Monday.
One of our correspondents who went round the city observed that motorists turned to black marketers who have taken over the major streets of Abuja, selling Premium Motor Spirit in jerry cans.
Many of the black marketers were seen in different parts of the city, including the Central Area, Garki, Wuse and in the suburbs like Kubwa and Nyanya.
Total and Connoil filling stations located opposite the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation headquarters were empty of vehicles on Thursday.
It could not be ascertained whether they had no fuel or they were just unwilling to sell to vehicle owners.
At Total petrol station along Arab Road, Kubwa, a long line of vehicles were noticed.
However, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, on Thursday assured Nigerians that there would be no fuel scarity in the country.
She said the NNPC has enough fuel in its reserve that would last the country for 45 days.
This was contained in a statement from the NNPC, quoting the minister to have spoken at the inaugural meeting of the newly constituted Board of the NNPC.
Alison-Madueke explained that the hitch in distribution currently being experienced had nothing to do with shortage in supply but unresolved issues between the Ministry of Finance and petroleum marketers.
She expressed optimism that the issue would be resolved as soon as the government seized the control of the situation.