Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
By Ejiofor Alike and Chineme Okafor
The Federal Government has paid a total of N259, 339, 041, 657.85 as subsidy for 2012 and the arrears of 2011 claims, the Ministry of Finance announced Monday.
The ministry, in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, said that contrary to the impression given by some marketers, the Federal Government, which has budgeted N888 billion for fuel subsidy, has continued to pay marketers whose claims had been duly verified.
The current tight supply of petroleum products, especially in Lagos, has been attributed to the reluctance of major marketers to import the products, citing the delay in the payment of their subsidy claims.
There has been no significant improvement in fuel supply despite the fact that the six major marketers and NIPCO Plc received products from two vessels laden with petrol that was imported by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
In the heat of last month’s fuel scarcity in Abuja following strike by oil workers, the ministry had revealed that the government had paid over N43 billion in three months to oil marketers as fuel subsidy claims.
Among the oil marketers that the ministry listed Monday as having received payment, are: Integrated Oil and Gas Limited; Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited; Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc; MRS Oil and Gas Limited; NIPCO Plc; Oando Plc; and Total Nigeria Plc.
They are some of the 24 companies that were paid a total of N78.9billion as their 2012 subsidy claims.
Capital Oil and Gas Limited; Ceoti Limited; Eterna Oil and Gas Plc; Forte Oil Plc; Heyden Petroleum Limited; Integrated Oil and Gas Limited; MRS Oil and Gas Company Limited; MRS Oil Nigeria Plc and Pinnacle Contractors Limited are among the 79 companies that were paid arrears of 2011 subsidy claims in 2012.
The statement did not however disclose if these companies were paid all their claims or not.
A breakdown of the payments to the marketers, according to the ministry, shows that 24 companies submitted and were paid 43 different subsidy claims for 2012; totalling N78,899,342,509.65.
Of the total amount of N78.9 billion paid so far under this category, the ministry said N34.6 billion was paid on August 22 following a thorough process of claims verification.
The list also showed that 79 companies, including the 25 companies recommended for further criminal investigation by the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee, were paid arrears of 2011 claims in 2012, bringing the total payment to N259,339,041,657.85.
Nwabuikwu, however, clarified that some claims were settled before the substantive implementation of the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee’s report which led to the suspension of payments of all 2012 claims to oil marketers under investigation for serious infractions.
Nwabuikwu said the payment made to the marketers was in line with the Federal Government’s commitment to encourage honest and professional private sector operators in the subsidy regime.
He stressed the position of the ministry that only marketers whose documents had been verified, processed and cleared would be paid.
“It is also important to note that both the number of claims by marketers and the amount paid have reduced significantly due to the work of the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee and the rigorous procedures which have been adopted to check fraud,” he added.
Nwabuikwu said the ministry would continue to manage fuel subsidy payments in a transparent manner that protects and enhances the interests of Nigerians.
According to him, the ministry makes payments based on submitted batches by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
The tight fuel supply, occasioned by the reluctance of major marketers to import petrol, has raised spectre of fuel scarcity that has made residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), who are just getting respite after a strike by oil workers disrupted supply to filling stations, to resort to panic buying.
The rationing of supply to the marketers, which began since last week, has led to an increase in ex-depot price of petrol to between N92.50 and N94 per litre, as against N87.66 recommended officially by the PPPRA.
Some depot owners, who are not major marketers, were actually selling at ex-depot price of N100 per litre at the weekend to trucks going into the hinterlands but the new cargoes brought in by the NNPC have slightly eased the pressure and kept the ex-depot price around N94 per litre.
THISDAY gathered that the Lagos private depots, which account for 60 per cent of the country’s fuel supply, are under increasing pressure following the weekend shutdown of the NNPC pipeline network that pumps fuel to all NNPC depots in the South-west.
Spokesman of the NNPC, Mr. Fidel Pepple, however said there was no cause for alarm as the corporation had mobilised for the repair of the pipeline network.
He also assured the nation that there would be no fuel scarcity, saying that NNPC has 32 days sufficiency level as at last Thursday.
“As soon as the pipeline fire was put out, we started mobilising for the repairs and we also had 32 days sufficiency as at Thursday. So, there is no cause for panic,” he said.
The NNPC at the weekend had shut down System 2B Network, which pumps imported products from the Atlas Cove Depot in Lagos to Ejigbo Satellite Depot, also in Lagos and Mosimi in Ogun State, as well as to Ibadan, Ore and Ilorin depots.
The Atlas Cove is designed to pump fuel to all these depots in the South-west along System 2B, which is the most active depot system in the country.
The shutdown of System 2B by the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the NNPC, followed last Thursday’s explosion in Arepo, Ogun State.
Vandals who attempted to siphon petroleum products from the network caused the explosion.
Investigation revealed that with most of the NNPC depots in the South-west out of operation, all tankers in the zone have been coming into the private depots in Lagos for products being discharged by the two vessels brought in by the NNPC.
NNPC has inadequate facilities to receive imported products and rely largely on the private depot owners for the receipt of its imported products under a through-put arrangement.
It was learnt that the two vessels – MT VEGAS and MT PRIYA – brought in 10 million and 20 million litres of petrol, respectively.
Most of the six major marketers – Oando Plc, Forte Oil Plc, MRS Oil and Gas, Conoil Plc, Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc and Total Nigeria Plc – are taking products from MT VEGAS, while NIPCO Plc has been lifting from MT PRIYA, since around 3.30pm on Sunday.
One of the marketers told THISDAY that in view of the pressure from other parts of the South-west, they would load tankers at night to clear the backlog of trucks waiting for products.
“We will do night loading to clear the backlog and we will also load between 150 and 200 trucks per day,” he said.
The six major marketers and NIPCO had stopped importation of products for a while due to the accumulated unpaid subsidy claims and interest charges on loans.
The marketers rely on the NNPC, which has been rationing its imported products to them, to keep their supply chain active.
THISDAY checks revealed that most filling stations in the FCT were unusually filled with vehicles as motorists are trying to avoid being caught unprepared by another fuel scarcity.
However, attendants at some of the filling stations were surprised by the long queues as they said they had enough petrol in stock.