17 August 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – DR Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and coordinating minister for the Economy, said the government was willing to negotiate with oil marketers indicted for subsidy fraud in order to encourage them to continue to import fuel.
The minister said the indicted marketers considered qualified for dialogue with the government were those whose misdeeds were not “too grievous”.
But, she insisted that government would not submit to blackmail by oil marketers who had queries over subsidy payments made to them in the past.
At a media chat on Thursday, Okonjo-Iweala said: “Those who we consider their infractions not too grievous, we are willing to talk to them and if they are willing to work with us, we would also be willing to settle their claims so that they can go and import.
“But to some of those who are bent on blackmailing the Federal Government even though they have committed very serious infractions in the subsidy, we are not willing to pay them when they have not cleared their case.”
She stated that government, after verifying marketers’ claims, had been making payments to genuine ones, adding that only those being prosecuted have their funds withheld.
She threatened that the government would publish the names of marketers who had received the payments within the period in question and those confirmed with infractions.
The minister said, “We will not pay those who had queries as to
whether the subsidy payments made to them were really due to them.
Those under investigation or have question marks from the committee were not paid. We paid those that had a clean bill between April and August.
“Now what has happened is that some of those who have been told that they have a case to answer have organised and want to hold the nation to ransom. As Nigerians we have said that we want to do the right thing; and we are trying to do the right thing, we have had this investigation.
The minister’s reaction came just as some oil marketers met with her to find a lasting solution to the fuel crisis being witnessed in some parts of the country.
Those present at the meeting were the Minister of State for Finance, Dr Yerima Ngama, the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation Dr Bright Okogu; the DG, Debt Managament Office, Mr Abraham Nwankwo, representatives of Nipco Plc, Oando Plc, Energy Oil, Folawiyo Group, Sahara Group, among others.
At the meeting, parties agreed to appraise the issues surrounding the outstanding claims with a view to finally determining the net payments due each of the importers.