Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Dizeani Allison Madueke
By Festus Akanbi
Indications emerged last week that the finance ministry and that of the petroleum resources may be on a collision course over a disagreement over the payment of subsidies to fuel importers for fuel imported during the fourth quarter of last year.
THISDAY learnt that the disagreement on the issue of subsidy payment reared its head at last Tuesday's meeting of the Economic Policy Coordination Committee when attempts by the Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to make a case for the payment of the fourth quarter 2011 allocation to fuel marketers, and which might have spilled over into January 2012, was rebuffed by her counterpart in the finance ministry, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
According to a source at the meeting, Alison-Madueke had raised the issue of subsidy payment for the importation of petroleum products for the last quarter of 2011 at the meeting but Okonjo-Iweala said that her ministry would be hard pressed to pay for subsidy claims for that quarter.
It was gathered that even though some marketers were given allocations for the product for the last quarter of 2011, it is not unexpected that some of the cargoes spilled over and arrived the country after January 1, 2012, when the subsidy had already been removed from petrol.
The finance minister was said to have insisted that the cut-off date for subsidy payment was September last year.
She made it clear that she intends to verify all claims by importers from June last year and September will be cut-off date, after which no subsidy will be paid on petrol imported after September 30, 2011.
Following the withdrawal of subsidy on petrol, the organised labour and human rights groups had called a nationwide strike stretching from Monday to the weekend.
Economic analysts said the refusal by the finance minister to pay for the consignments which arrived after January 1 was borne out of her resolve to avoid a situation where importers profit from subsidy claims and selling petrol at the pump at the indicative price of N141 per litre determined by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.