28 May 2015, Lagos – The over N20bn claims by the National Association of Road Transport Owners as amount owed them by petroleum product marketers for the lifting and transport of products from depots to filling stations across the country may be slashed, according to findings by our correspondent.
This development, therefore, may result in a verification process of claims by the transporters, which will result in the slashing of the N20bn hitherto claimed by them.
The transporters had presented the N20bn in February this year, and all things being equal, the debt profile was expected to have risen beyond N20bn putting into consideration additional product lifting, accumulated cost of borrowing, among others.
Our correspondent also learnt that the amount claimed by NARTO was part of the figures that could not be reconciled between the Federal Government and the petroleum product marketers.
It will be recalled that the recent scarcity of petroleum products which crippled the economy and other activities in the country was as a result of a strike by NARTO and the Petroleum Tanker Drivers arm of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers.
In this light, the Chairman, NUPENG, Lagos Zone, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, said NUPENG had not been having issues with the Federal Government with regard to petroleum products supplies.
He also claimed that the PTD-NUPENG did not embark on the strike which caused huge tension in the country some days ago. He, however, explained that the owners of the tankers (NARTO members) did embark on the strike leaving tanker drivers with no choice but to stay at home.
Korodo said, “Petroleum Product Marketers did not pay NARTO members their freight charges. The payment of the said freight charges remains a function of the payment of subsidy claims to marketers by the Federal Government.”
The Chairman of NUPENG, Lagos Zone could not confirm to our correspondent whether the over N20bn claims by transporters would be paid by marketers, but he admitted that there was a resolution by all stakeholders in the supply chain to call off the strike.
In addition, Korodo told our correspondent that there were insinuations in some quarters that a few claims on the NARTO schedule were not genuine. But the figure involved he could not verify, as it was learnt that investigations were ongoing.
The Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Thomas Olawore, had recently, confirmed that the debt profiles of marketers and transporters were on the rise.
He also said all marketers were currently indebted to transporters, saying the situation was already escalating a round of tension in the petrol supply chain.
Olawore, who had also put the amount owed petroleum products transporters by marketers at about N20bn, said, “All marketers are owing NARTO members, and the transporters are not happy about the development as they have continued to call for their payment.
“They (transporters) say we are owing them N20bn, but we have not reconciled that amount with them. But the truth of the matter is that after the reconciliation is done by both parties, the final amount would be a little less or above the N20bn claimed.”
Olawore also said it was unlike marketers to continue to owe transporters even when it was obvious that the debt was capable of causing a major setback in the supply process. According to him, the inability or refusal of the Federal Government to meet its financial obligation in the current subsidy regime for petrol, remains the reason the transporters are being owed.
A marketer also told our correspondent in confidence that as there were records of fraud in subsidy payment scheme of petroleum product marketers, it was very possible some transporters were going about their claims fraudulently.
According to the source, there is the need to properly scrutinise the claims of NARTO members so that people are not paid money for services not rendered.
The Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association on Tuesday, through its Executive Secretary, Mr. Olufemi Adewole, blamed PTD-NUPENG and NARTO for the recent strike, while reiterating that it never embarked on any shutdown of members’ depots/facilities.
DAPPMA stressed, “Contrary to the erroneous stories and messages being bandied about, it was the PTD-NUPENG and NARTO, who normally transport these products from marketers’ depots, that embarked on the strike following their publicised complaints of not being paid their legitimate outstanding transport claims by marketers who participate in the Petroleum Support Fund Scheme as a result of being owed huge reimbursement for petrol imports to date.
“We have maintained that we would sell and load all petroleum products available to us even as delays in the payments of our reimbursement have continued to impede and adversely affect our operations. The suspension in loading in the last few days has been due to the strike embarked upon by PTD-NUPENG and NARTO. These two bodies had refused to load out / lift petroleum products for distribution from our depots. That is the true position.”
Since the unions embarked on this action, DAPPMA said it had been discussing with them to seek amicable ways of resolving the logjam bearing in mind its harrowing and debilitating impact on the Nigerian public.
In a related development, the senator representing Kwara Central, Bukola Saraki, recently said that Nigeria was losing a total of $2bn to fake fuel subsidy operators, while strongly maintaining that the petrol subsidy scheme in the country was a very big platform for fraud.
He alleged that the fraud in the scheme was being allowed to prevail by the current Federal Government of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Saraki said subsidy in itself was never a problem to the country but the bad management of the subsidy, which he said had been turned into a huge racket that created the lingering crisis in the oil sector.