(Sundiata Post) — A major relief may have come the way of the troubled downstream sector of the petroleum industry as there are indications that the Federal Government has finally sent a document to the national assembly seeking approval for payment of N650 billion subsidy arrears owed oil marketers.
A source close to the presidency told BusinessDay that the document seeking approval for the payment was sent to the national assembly on either Wednesday or Thursday last week.
Industry sources contacted by BusinessDay said they have heard the development but they are still trying to confirm it from national assembly members.
Joseph Akinlaja, chairman House committee on Downstream when contacted simply asked when was it that it was sent to the national assembly and when he was told it was last week Thursday, he said, if it is true the Speaker of the House would read it on the floor of the House today Tuesday.
Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria, DAPPMAN and Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, (MOMAN), had written to President Muhammadu Buhari on January 24 and also to Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, on the debts.
In the second letter, the marketers conveyed their decision to engage in mass sack of staff and closure of depots in less than 14 days.
The marketers had said that a series of constructive engagements and meetings had been held between them and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, the Ministry of Labour, and the presidency.
They expressed hope that the payment would be approved by the national assembly, bringing an end to the crisis faced by them.
“Marketers have been reassured about the FGN’s commitment to make payment as evidenced by the request for approval for appropriation of same to the national assembly,” they said.
“It is our hope that this approval will be given promptly and these long overdue payments made subsequently. All marketers are to ensure there is no disruption in the supply and distribution of PMS nationwide.”
Last year, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo directed Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun to pay oil marketers all outstanding subsidy claims, estimated at about $2 billion after verification and study of the legal implication of continued delay.
The minister, however, noted that although the Federal Executive Council approved promissory notes for settlement of the arrears and other liabilities inherited from the previous administration, the National Assembly was yet to approve the payments.
Having waited years for the payment, which continues to attract huge bank interests, the association, therefore, petitioned the Federal Government, noting:
“Marketers are continually under pressure by banks and the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), with looming threats of imminent take-over of our petrol stations and tank farms by creditors, labour unions, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners and Petroleum Tanker Drivers (NARTO/PTD), to whom we are substantially indebted due to past freight services.”
In the light of the foregoing, the association said it had no option but stop borrowing to pay staff and immediately commence massive disengagement of staff, as forewarned in its January 24 letter, where it gave the Federal Government a 21-day notice to pay up.
The association said: “The unfortunate primary fallout of this step is the likely shutdown of all DAPPMAN depots nationwide due to lack of manpower to operate same, pending the time the Federal Government will pay off its indebtedness to petroleum marketers. This, unfortunately, will have a multiplier effect on the nationwide supply and distribution of petroleum products, which currently is still a struggle.”
The ultimatum, contained in a letter signed by Executive Secretary Olufemi Adewole, notes: “Subsequent to our letter ref: DS/ES/Presidency/16 dated January 24, 2018 and copied to you, we again observe a lack of response on the part of the Federal Government to the plight of petroleum marketers, many of whom have become financially insolvent.”
The demand became inevitable as a result of buck-passing between the executive, represented by the Ministry of Finance, and legislators. While the ministry insisted the sum had been forwarded for legislative approval, the lawmakers denied receiving any notification.