17 August 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – NIGERIA’s Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, disclosed Thursday that the government has been paying verified claims and that there are no disagreements whatsoever with honest marketers.
Answering questions on emerging fuel queues in Abuja and other parts of the country occasioned by issues over subsidy payment between the Federal Government and some fuel marketers, the minister said: “We have resumed payment to the marketers. “As you know these payments come in batches and since April we have been receiving these batches and paying.
“Recall that we had a period that we had to verify all the payments that were being made. Nigerians have said why is it that we keep paying these marketers when we believe there is non-transparency in the way that subsidy is going.
“We set up a committee headed by Mr Aig Imoukhuede which has now become a presidential committee. The president has formally inaugurated them and was asked to verify all the payments that were being made. So for a period of time these investigations were going on, so that the Ministry of Finance will be sure of the people who really deserved to be paid.
“As the verification was rounding off in April, we resumed payment to marketers and I’m happy to say that between April and August we have been paying in respect of 2012 claims. We paid about N42.66 billion to marketers and the number of marketers that were paid was 31”.
According to her, fuel marketers who have questions to answer are the ones who paid unionists to blackmail the Federal Government with a view to stampeding President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration into paying claims without verifying them.
“Of course we said we will not pay those who have query as to whether the subsidy payment they were paying were really due to them. Those under investigation or have question mark from committee were not paid”, she said.
She insisted that the administration will not accept such an arrangement as Nigerians have continued to call for a transparent subsidy administration and that no association is bigger than the nation.
She added that, “What is happening is that those who have been told that they have a case to answer have organized and decided to hold the nation to ransom. Nigerians have said we must do the right thing and we have decided to do the right thing and we are trying to do the right thing.
Some of them (marketers) not all of them have decided to embark on what we consider as cheap blackmail of the government to have this hold on the nation by saying they are not importing fuel and they are not going to sell. But we are not going to give in to that”, she insisted.
Govt open to dialogue
The minister said what her team will do is to look into the cases of those who are not participating in this (blackmail) and who may have a slight infraction and talk to them, saying, “we are open to dialogue.”
Before the briefing ended, some marketers arrived the ministry for talks with the minister, particularly to reconcile their books, as according to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, there would be a netting out between the Federal Government and the marketers with a view to ironing out all differences. Companies that came for the meeting included Oando, Falowiyo Energy, Sahara Energy and NIPCO.