Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said that the current fuel scarcity had nothing to do with the payment of marketers.
Speaking at a news briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, she said: “I want to emphasize that contrary to some unfounded speculations, the queues are not caused by payment issues”.
The Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, (PPPRA), Farouk Ahmed, had last Friday told the Senate Committee on Petroleum that the scarcity was a result of issues in the sector which led to the devaluation of the naira, and said that the claim of fuel marketers about subsidy backlog was correct.
His words: “What actually complicated it was the devaluation of naira twice. The first one that took place on November 28 devalued naira from N155 to N168 to $1 while the second one that took place on February 18 brought the exchange rate to N199 to $1.”
“Marketers were not sure of the actual delivery cost and we had to draw a new template as advised by the CBN. The delay we have now is caused by the November devaluation.”
But in her own response, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said the situation was due to a “mix of factors including disruption of pipelines and logistical issues”.
She added: “As you know, we paid the marketers a total of N320.8 billion from the Excess Crude account in two instalments in December last year. This underscores the fact that we are taking payment of marketers very seriously indeed. We’ve been in constant touch and talking with the marketers and a week ago we reached an agreement with them on their core concerns which we have addressed.
She however admitted there was an outstanding N185billion yet unpaid, and also agreed the marketers and the government have issues over differentials caused by the devaluation of naira.
She said both sides have agreed that marketers be paid not only the costs they incur during importation of fuel, but also “interest and forex differentials”.
To solve the problem, she announced: “DMO has issued SDNs to cover N100 billion out of the N185 billion agreed upon as balance for the next payments. CBN has also given approvals for the banks to issue letters of credit”.
She however noted that some marketers of refusing to cooperate with the government in ending the crisis.
She said: “It is clear that while the union and most members have been cooperative, some of their members are not. Some of these people have even refused to open LCs to facilitate their payments.
“We salute the union and the members who are working hard to end this unfortunate situation. As for those who are working in the other direction, Nigerians should ask them what their motives are”.