The controversy over the payment of arrears owed fuel importers is not yet over. Although the Federal Government has agreed to pay outstanding subsidy claims of N159 billion, the marketers insisted that the debt has increased to N300billion.
The President Muhammadu Buhari administration had on May 29, 2015 inherited a subsidy debt of N291.7bn from the administration government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Executive Secretary, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, Mr. Olufem iAdewole, said that “as of the time the former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was handing over, the subsidy debt was N291.7bn. The PPPRA has verified some cargoes after then. I can assure you that the debt has risen close to N300bn because some of us have imported after that. But I don’t have the verified figure with me now.”
Adewole, who said the N292.7billion was already before Buhari, added that the government had promised that it would pay the debt.
The President is expected to review closely the subsidy scheme, which was revealed to have paid out over N1tn in fraudulent claims in 2012.
Petrol marketers attributed the incessant fuel scarcity to banks’ unwillingness to open line of credit to fuel importers. “The banks have not fully opened letters of credit. They said they wanted us to pay the previous loans. So, not all of us are importing now because of this constraint,” Adewole explained.
The Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Obafemi Olawore, also stated that the banks were not helping the marketers with letters of credit, adding, “Our importation has gone down to almost zero. We continue to import, but at a lower volume. So, that is what is happening. Any time you see queues, it is because the NNPC, one way or the other, does not give us products. Now, they have given us some products and we are going to start distributing. So by Wednesday, we will see appreciable improvement,” he said.
By Dike Onwuamaeze