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Face-off: FG, marketers clash over N74bn bill

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Face-off: FG, marketers clash over N74bn bill

Adebayo Obajemu

Barring last minutes rapprochement between the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency (NMDPRA) and the independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) to settle their differences , Nigeria may as from this week, begin to witness another round of petroleum scarcity and the return of queues at petrol stations across the country.

IPMAN last week promised to unleash on the nation a “Mother of all fuel queues” on what it called federal government’s deceit over the phoney payment of N74 billion as bridging claims in seven months.

Recall that last Wednesday, the federal government, through NMDPRA, in a tone laced with disappointment, stated that it had paid oil marketers N74 billion as bridging claims in seven months.

The agency, according to it, was reacting to claims by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association Nigeria (IPMAN), Suleja branch, that continuing fuel scarcity was caused by non-payment of bridging claims.

NMDPRA said it paid N71.2 billion bridging claims and another N2.7 billion freight differentials to the marketers as of June 6. Giving the breakdown, the agency stated that:

“The attention of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) has been drawn to allegations made by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association Nigeria (IPMAN Suleja Branch) on product scarcity as a result of non-payment of bridging claims.

“The chief executive of the NMDPRA, at a meeting held on 17th May 2022 with IPMAN bridging payment was discussed extensively and the processes were explained and agreed upon by IPMAN.

“He assured IPMAN of NMDPRA’s willingness to continue making payments of outstanding claims to promote seamless operations.

“Pursuant to the meeting, the NMDPRA went ahead to make an additional payment of N10 billion in June and sought for an upward review of the freight rate which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari and is currently being implemented.

“The Authority wishes to reiterate that bridging payment is an ongoing process which is carried out after due verification exercise by the Authority and Marketers.

“So far, the Authority paid N71,233,712,991 bridging claims and another N2,736,179,950.84 freight differentials to the Marketers as at 6th June 2022.

“A breakdown of payment made to Marketers is as follows: Major Marketers (MOMAN) received N10bn, IPMAN members were paid N42bn, NNPC Retails N7bn while DAPPMAN members were paid N12bn, these translate to a total of N73,969,892,941.84.

“It is disheartening that despite these payments and increase of N10 bridging cost, which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks ago, IPMAN could turn around to accuse the NMDPRA of insensitivity,” the statement said.

However, Mohammed Shuaibu, Abuja-Suleja IPMAN Secretary countered the position of the NMDPRA on the payments of bridging claims.
Referring to the Chief Executive of NMDPRA, Farouk Ahmed, the IPMAN official said, “He (Ahmed) alleged he has paid marketers N74bn, right? We have accused him of sabotaging our efforts by not paying us our bridging claims and that is the fact.

“Since he claims to have paid, we are not arguing but we challenge him to come out and name the marketers that he paid. Let him explain from A to Z. Let him bring out the documents. If you say you have paid our members N74bn, and we say we’ve not been paid, then come out and explain to the public.

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“Anyway, by the time we down-tool fully within the next one week, he will explain to the public and the presidency how the situation got to that level, because this one is going to lead to the mother of all queues.”

Shuaibu added, “You are owing a marketer, for example, N30m or N20m, you paid him N150,000 or N200,000 and you now go on air to say you have paid the marketer. Is there any justification to that effect?”

He said the indebtedness to marketers was way beyond N50bn, adding that IPMAN had been raising the alarm because many of its members were shutting down operations due to their inability to continue in business.

“By the time we down-tool, it will be massive because the nine depots in the North and other marketers are now itching to come out with their own claims. They are ready to join in solidarity and may be by that time the government will know if we are joking or not,” he stated.

Accusations and counter accusations are not new in the tenuous relationship between the federal government and the oil marketers. In May, IPMAN said the government owed its members half a trillion naira being the cost of transporting petrol across the country.

Marketers had listed the high cost of buying petrol at the depots and the high cost of diesel to truck them as the major factors responsible for the recent queue.

It said NMDPRA remains committed to ensuring a safe, efficient, and effective conduct of midstream and downstream petroleum operations.

This week will determine whether the mother of all queues will return, meanwhile Nigerians wait in anxiety and fears as the two elephants rattle their sabres.

 

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