The Senate has urged the federal government to, as a matter of utmost urgency, direct all concerned agencies to immediately pay arrears of fuel subsidy owed oil marketers, which now stands at N1trillion from the initial N429billion.
It also urged the federal government to engage marketers immediately and agree on all outstanding liabilities to put an end to all subsidy claims.
The upper legislative chamber, however, urged the oil marketers to rescind their seven-day ultimatum, and allow the federal government little time to look into their demands.
Senate’s resolutions followed a motion moved to that effect by Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC Zamfara Central).
Marafa, who chairs the Senate Committee on Petroleum ( Downstream), in the motion titled: “Urgent Need to avert looming crisis in fuel supply due to non-payment of approved subsidy arrears to oil marketers,” said, the debt has forced many of the marketers out of business, as they are being subjected to “Mareva Injunctions.”
He wondered why the money was yet to be paid after the many interventions and recommendations of the National Assembly for such payment in July this year.
The lawmaker further said that the failure of relevant authorities to effect payment of the subsidy claims to the oil marketers, led to the latest threat of sacking their workers by the end of this month since they have no capacity of paying them monthly salaries any longer.
According to him, the planned action of the oil marketers, if not promptly checked, may result in artificial fuel scarcity that may span through the election period.
Continuous delay in the payment of the arrears, according to him, has increased the debt from about N429billion to N1trillion between June, 2017 to date, and will continue to increase to bank interest charges and forex.
In his contributions, Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan (APC Yobe North), described as worrisome that the subsidy claims remained unpaid till date, alleging that saboteurs within were responsible for the delay.
But Senator Ibrahim Abdullahi Danbaba (PDP Sokoto South), in his own submission, said the federal government was the one sabotaging itself.
He said: ” The issue about these liabilities is that in actual sense, some of us have reservations on how these liabilities came into being, because I can recall in 2015, a supplementary bill was sent to the National Assembly and our committee, the Appropriations Committee, deliberated on that, and we even made suggestions with regards to outstanding liabilities associated with subsidy up to December, even though the executive bill that came covered the period of up to September only.
“So, it is not a question of anybody wanting to sabotage the government. In actual sense, who is supposed to be responsible for the settlement of these liabilities? It is the government.
“I know that our committee has been up and doing. In fact, we have been inviting critical stakeholders, including the CBN governor, minister of finance, but as far as I can remember, all of them declined appearing before our committee.
“They appeared only through delegation. And that contributed to the position where we are today. As long as people are not held responsible for their shortcomings, we will continue to have this problem.
“Therefore, there is no question of sabotage. If there is any element of sabotage, it is the government itself that is sabotaging itself because the issue of how this matter should be settled, rest with those people that are in control of our finances in the Executive arm of government.
“The marketers are frustrated because some agencies of government do not want to cooperate with the committee so that this matter can be put to rest once and for all.”
In his remarks, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, said, government, through the relevant agencies, should address the problem of the oil marketers to avoid another fuel scarcity at this critical time of the year.
“Government should be able to keep to its agreement with people, not just these oil marketers, but once you reach an agreement with people, unions or association, that agreement has to be kept”, he said.
FG, marketers reach truce
Meanwhile, the looming fuel scarcity has been averted, as the federal government and petroleum marketers, yesterday, agreed on settlement of outstanding claims.
To this end, operations at all depots and sales will continue until further notice.
Spokesman to the Finance Minister, Paul Ella Abechi, in a statement, said the agreement was contained in a statement jointly signed by officials of the federal government and representatives of the petroleum marketers in Abuja.
The meeting which was held at the Federal Ministry of Finance in Abuja, had senior government officials from Federal Ministry of Finance, the Debt Management Office (DMO), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Budget Office of the Federation, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) in attendance.
Also in attendance on the part of the petroleum marketers were representatives from the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA), Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), and the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN).
The statement reads: “The Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA), Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) with the federal government delegation meeting held at the Federal Ministry Finance in Abuja on Thursday, December 6, 2018, agreed that operations at all depots and sales will continue until further notice.
“After a meeting held today, Thursday, December 6, 2018, with senior government officials from the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Debt Management Office, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Budget Office of the Federation, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, we are satisfied with the arrangements being made by the Government to settle the claims of petroleum marketers.
“The discussions showed that the government has considered the concerns and is reviewing the initial process approved by the government for the settlement. We consider that this shows the government’s responsiveness to the need for the claims to be settled in a timely manner.
“We hereby wish to reassure the members of the public on the availability of PMS. We urge the public not to panic, as there will be no fuel scarcity.
“The engagement of the two sides will continue on Monday, December 10, 2018.”