Wednesday, March 4, 2015 8:35 am
As the Nigerian Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, prepares to meet with oil marketers in the country on Wednesday over the lingering scarcity of fuel in the country, she has also promised that the government would meet the demands of the oil marketers.
The government, according to her, would meet the costs incurred by the marketers, their fees and interest as well as Foreign Exchange (forex) differentials.
Nigerians have groaned for days now with filling stations shutting down because of scarcity of petroleum products while very long queues are experienced in the few filling stations dispensing the products.
Many Nigerians depend on premium motor spirit, popularly called petrol, and diesel to power their electricity generators as the country further groans over power supply and, in some cases, neck-breaking electricity bills.
Okonjo-Iweala said the government put in place strategies to cushion the effect of the fuel scarcity and address the demands of the oil marketers.
“We have taken the following steps: we’ve reached an agreement with the marketers’ union on the N185 billion balance of their payment. As part of this agreement, we are paying not only the costs they’ve incurred and their fees but also interest and forex differentials,” she explained.
The Debt Management Office (DMO), she said, is to issue Sovereign Debt Notes (SDNs) to cover N100 billion out of the N185 billion agreed upon as balance for the next payments.
She further said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had also given approvals for the banks to issue letters of credit.
She said the government was very concerned about the fuel queues which have appeared in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country and that “the Petroleum ministry and NNPC have worked very hard to reduce them to the barest minimum. We sympathise with Nigerians whose lives are being disrupted by the queues and assure them that we are working hard to end them as quickly as possible.”
Femi Fani-Kayode, the spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation, PDPPCO, had accused the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, of being responsible for the fuel scarcity, but the APC had listed several reasons further saying it was shameful that the government could point accusing fingers to others for its failures.
Okonjo-Iweala also said the scarcity was due to factors including disruption of pipelines and logistical issues and that these are being attended to urgently.
“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 Letters of Credit (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,” she said.
“The Petroleum ministry and NNPC are taking strong action to improve supplies in this election season.
“I’ve been speaking with Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and they’ve assured me that they are working hard to increase supplies and more are on the way,” she said adding that 40 million litres was being distributed in Lagos since Tuesday with 86 trucks already in Lagos and another 86 trucks heading for Abuja.
“Other parts of the country are also included in the plans. So the situation should improve soon.
“We paid the marketers a total of N320.8 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) in two installments last December.
“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 said.