The Federal Government has through the Minister of Finance ,Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has faulted the N200 billion claims by oil marketers as outstanding payment on subsidy and said that they were holding Nigerians to ransom.
Speaking at press briefing in Abuja meant to address ongoing fuel scarcity in the country,Okonjo-Iweala said it was unfortunate that the oil marketers in making their demands were doing so on huge sums in exchange and interests rates differentials.
She explained that the government 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 and at the time we paid that amount last week, what we had outstanding is N98 billion,’’ she said.
“Since we made the announcement last week, the outstanding payment has now risen from N98 billion to N131 billion and I ask themwhat is the balance ofN200 billion they are demanding for?
The Minister added that the government had made it known to them that what they were requesting was huge especially the exchange rate differentials more so 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 the marketers claims must be thoroughly looked intoand 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,she submitted.
She lamented that this problem was now happening when the government has prioritised their payment,’’ she said.
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.
Okonjo –Iweala explained 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 quarreling with,the template which 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.
“I strongly wish to. suggest that the nation has to do something about it; Nigerians have to do something.
“We have been labouring under this for a long time and it’s been stressful for everybody,’’ she pleaded.
Meanwhile the Secretary General of the oil marketers association, Mr Lawore has frowned at the insincerity and insensitivity of the FG concerning the debts owed its members stressing that they would collect all monies being owed them by this administration before the expiration of its tenure because they were indebted to banks and this regime was noted for always dilly dallying in paying them for fuel already imported.