Federal Government has faulted the N200 billion claims by oil marketers as being outstanding payment on subsidy, saying the marketers were merely exploiting the situation in order to hold Nigerians to ransom. This is even as scarcity of the commodity persists in pockets of areas in the country.
Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, faulted the claims, Sunday, in Abuja while briefing newsmen.
“As you know, we paid N156 billion recently to the marketers; N100 billion being the principle payment we owed them and N56 billion being interest rate and some remaining exchange rate differentials.
“Prior to that, we paid them N31 billion as exchange rate differentials. At the time we paid that amount last week, what we had outstanding is N98 billion,’’ she said.
The minister said that government relies on the weekly data released by Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to certify what was due to the marketers.
“Since we made the announcement last week, the outstanding payment has now risen from N98 billion to N131 billion. And they (marketers) are now making a demand of N200 billion and I asked them what is the balance for?’’ said Okonjo-Iweala.
The Minister who said the marketers were making demands for huge sums in exchange and interest rate differentials, added that the government had made it known to them that what they were requesting was huge especially the exchange rate differentials.
She said that PPPRA needed to look at the figures to ascertain if the way they were calculated was in line with the exchange rate policy of the Central Bank.
Okonjo-Iweala said the outgoing administration would not want to leave unverified claims or burden for the incoming government to pay.
“So, this (marketers claims) must be thoroughly looked into and certified. We recognise that the marketers are business people and should be paid; but the rate at which they have continued to hold Nigerians to ransom is discouraging. It is unfortunate that this is happening now when the government has prioritised their payment,’’ she said.
She recalled that in 2011 when huge sums were owed the marketers, Nigerians were not held to ransom and no fuel station was closed.
She said that the government had appealed to the marketers as Nigerians to make little sacrifice, adding that they should not allow Nigerians to suffer, further explaining that the template used for calculating the marketers’ claims was designed to cover the entire cost of their business including the profit margin.
According to her, the template approved by PPPRA, indicated that the marketers face few risk in their business as government bore the entire burden.
“It is actually that template that we have been quarrelling with. The template said the marketers must be paid interest rate differentials, profit margin guaranteed, plus the principle amount they spent on the business. Based on this, the government is bearing the full risk of their business even now that we have revenue shortfall,’’ she said.
Okonjo-Iweala expressed concern that the situation had degenerated to the level where the marketers had formed cartels that could ground the nation at will.