By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The federal government has proposed a meeting with the independent oil marketers as one of the measures aimed at averting fuel crisis this Yuletide season.
The oil marketers have threatened to shut down their depots over continued non-payment of oil subsidies by the federal government.
But the presidency and the National Assembly in a swift reaction, have appealed to the marketers to give them a little more time to sort out issues bordering on non-payment of oil subsidies within the next few days.
Making the disclosure after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Villa, Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Kabiru Marafa, said both the president and himself had critically examined the matter and a strong commitment would be made to promptly resolve the matter.
According to Marafa, delay in payment of the subsidies, which he said was inherited by the current government, was caused by technicalities bordering on forex differentials and attendant interest.
Marafa also said bureaucracy surrounding computation of figures had further compounded the matter adding that the oil marketers are not happy with the Ministry of Finance over its handling of the matter.
“That is what I said, so we are now talking of technicalities, there is fuel in the country, in our seas, in our depots all across the country. But there are some technicalities now regarding payment of subsidies, forex differentials and interest, which this government inherited.
“They are not a creation of this government. However, government is a continuum and when the president came in, he was confronted with it and he agreed and said, ‘fine, I have stopped subsidy but since there are claims, we will look into it and pay.’
“But now, the bureaucratic nature of the computations is what dragged up to this time and depot owners are not too happy with what the Ministry of Finance has done and maybe some other agencies.
“So, we have been on it in the Senate and the House of Representatives for almost two weeks now. Finally, today, I have had quality time with the president and we have looked into the whole thing.
“By next week, we will invite all the stakeholders. I believe we should be able to get to the root of the matter. “As for the depot owners, we are going to plead with them again to give more time, especially now that we have discussed with the head of the executive arm of government.
“So, I’m sure everything will be resolved in the next few days,” he added.
Marafa also said the need for diligent handling of the matter had become imminent if sabotage by some unscrupulous individuals who want to orchestrate fuel crisis, despite availability of fuel which can last for six months must be averted.
He added, “There has been some disquiet in the industry regarding marketers’ payment with Ministry of Finance, (Debt Management Office) DMO and the Central Bank, which we feel if not carefully handled, some enemies of the administration might bring about technical issues that could lead to queues on the line, especially as government has provided enormous quantities of petroleum products across the country that can last the country up to six months through NNPC.
“So, some people are not too happy about it and they want to sabotage the efforts of the government.”