Fuel scarcity may linger over unpaid subsidy claims

Nairobi-fuel-shortage12 March 2014, Abuja – The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria on Tuesday said the shortage of petrol supply across the country was as a result of the Federal Government’s inability to clear the outstanding subsidy claims owed its members.

According to IPMAN, over six months’ subsidy arrears have not been paid by the government, adding that the prevailing shortage of fuel supply across the country might linger as the marketers could no longer import petroleum products unless the major part of the arrears was cleared.

The National President, IPMAN, Mr. Aminu Abdulkardir, explained that with the present situation, the nation was currently relying only on the 450,000 barrels of crude allocated to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

This, he said, amounted to 50 per cent of the country’s petrol consumption per quarter.

Abdulkardir, who spoke during IPMAN’s National Executive Council meeting in Abuja, noted that Nigerians would have to go through the difficulties of fuel scarcity this time due to non- payment of the accumulated subsidy claims for the past nine months.

He said, “The current contraction in the supply of the product is a result of the non-payment of the marketers’ subsidy claims. Quarter four (2013) claims have not been paid completely and we are now in quarter one of 2014. Our national consumption today is being supplied by the NNPC. And it is only the 50 per cent of the NNPC product that is in circulation.

“They have stepped up their supply trying to make what every stakeholder is supposed to be doing, but it is clear that they alone cannot do it. I, therefore, use this medium to appeal to the Ministry of Finance, to as a matter of urgency, intervene and pay the marketers accordingly so that the augmentation of this shortfall can be achieved in a short while and this scarcity will be a thing of the past.

“We are being owed third quarter subsidy payments, which is for last year. Claims for the quarter four of last year and the first quarter of this year are piling up to about nine months. We need to be paid this money because we are in business.”

He said the marketers were currently moving products from the coastal areas to the hinterland through roads, stressing that congestion at the terminals in Lagos was slowing down products evacuation to the northern and eastern parts of the country.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress has described the current fuel scarcity as “a cruel conspiracy” between the Federal Government and the marketers to impose hardship and trauma on the poor and hapless Nigerians with a view to ostensibly increasing its price.”

The union said it would resist any attempt to further impose hardship on the workers through increase in fuel price.

The NLC stated these in a communiqué made available to journalists on Tuesday in Abuja issued after the emergency meeting of its Central Working Committee.

In the communiqué signed by the NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, and the acting General Secretary, Chris Uyot, the CWC endorsed the position of the Congress to the National Conference and accepted to focus on national and core labour issues.

It also resolved to work with organisations of like minds to make a robust presentation at the conference.

“Accordingly, the CWC called on government to stop this subterfuge and take all necessary action immediately to restore full and uninterrupted supply of petroleum products to consumers across the country,” the communiqué stated.

The opposition All Progressives Congress also accused the Peoples Democratic Party-led Federal Government of acting out a clandestine script to increase petroleum products’ prices through the back door.

It said the ongoing nationwide fuel scarcity might have been induced to make higher prices a fait accompli for Nigerians.

The party said this in a statement signed by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

According to the APC, the fact that the scarcity has persisted despite the claims and counter-claims by the government and the oil marketers, and the measures purportedly taken by the government to ameliorate the situation, is the clearest indication of official deception.

The statement read in part, “The more fuel trucks the government claims to have sent to major cities to ease the scarcity, the more difficult it is for Nigerians to obtain the product.

“This is an old trick and Nigerians should not be hoodwinked into believing there will be no increase in fuel prices.

“The only deterrent is to let the government know that Nigerians will resist any price hike.

“The truth is that with the elections approaching, the PDP-led Federal Government is desperately seeking all possible avenues to raise funds for its usual electoral shenanigans, and increasing fuel prices has always been an attractive option to the government, not minding what the impact will be on the same people it has impoverished since 1999.”

The APC said the lingering scarcity had already forced many Nigerians to pay as much as N120 per litre of petrol.

It observed that that had always been the practice, adding that the next refrain from the government would be that only higher prices would guarantee product availability and that many marketers were unwilling to import the product because of low profit margin.

The APC commended the NLC for its timely warning against any plan to hike the pump price of petrol.

However, reacting to the APC’s claim, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation accused the opposition party of politicising the issue of fuel scarcity.

The acting General Manager, Group Public Affairs Department, NNPC, Dr. Omar Ibrahim, told one of our correspondents that the corporation had earlier warned politicians against playing politics with the situation.

Ibrahim said the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, had made it clear that the Federal Government was not considering any form of increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit.

He said, “We have said it that people should not politicise this issue and that is what is beginning to unfold. It is rather unfortunate. The minister on several occasions had made it clear that the government was not planning to increase the price of fuel.

“So, I wonder why people will still say the scarcity is a ploy to increase fuel price by this government. Even today (Tuesday) the minister made it clear again at the National Assembly that there is no such plan by the government.”


– The Punch

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