Fuel scarcity:Nigerians and the subsidy palaver

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RESPITE will not come the way of Nigerians on the fuel scarcity in the country unless President-elect Muhammadu Buhari makes unambiguous pronouncement on the uncertainty surrounding the oil sector.

While the Federal Government had demonstrated goodwill by offsetting about N150 billion of the outstanding N250billion, the marketers had argued that the subsidy claims is not static because petroleum products are consumed on daily basis, subsidy payment rises in consonance with the level of consumption. Hence, the need marketers insist that they must get a clear picture of the incoming administration’s policy direction in oil and gas sector especially the downstream before they can make more commitment.

Speaking on the issue, the Executive Secretary of the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN), Olufemi Adewole, said the marketers are also perfecting plans to meet with the Presidential transitional committee with a view to finding a middle ground to the confusion surrounding the importation of petroleum products.

His words: “We have written letter to the President-elect to enable us meet with him with a view to find a middle ground that will guarantee the investments of the marketers. We feel we need to know the policy thrust of the new administration on the downstream sector. We must know whether to continue to import with the assurance that the incoming government will pay upon assumption of office. We also need to know how to brace up for deregulation just in case the new government decides to do away with subsidy. We also plan to meet with the presidential transitional committee on the same issue. We have written a letter requesting the meeting but we are still yet to decide on the modalities. But one thing that we are sure of is that there is the urgent need to meet with the President-elect or his representatives on the way forward as far as the sector is concerned. It is what the President-elect tells us that will be done.”

Adewole also explained that the Federal Government is not helping matters by its refusal to issue a Debt Sovereign Note (DSN) to marketers on the outstanding N156billion . He said the excuse by government that it does have not money to pay is not tenable explaining that the SDN of the N150billion that was paid recently was issued back in February.

His explanation: “We are not saying government must pay all the money now. Government is not sincere when it says that marketers are insisting on collecting the money now. The SDN of the money that was recently paid was issued in February this year. All we are saying is that issuing such a note to us now will serve as a guarantee that the money will be paid even though not immediately. But for government to blackmail us by saying we are insisting on payment now cannot be correct.”

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He was quick to add that the coming of Buhari is not causing apprehension within DAPPMAN, saying the group engages in genuine business that is verifiable and therefore has nothing to fear from Buhari presidency.

His words: “The reason we are engaging Buhari and his team is borne out of the need to avoid duplication of efforts. Even our current efforts at ensuring that the present administration issues the SDN is to ensure that all the processes for the product that was imported during the lifespan of this administration is sorted out before it departs. Otherwise, we will come back to repeat the processes all over again. When Buhari takes over on May 29, he will need time to settle down and look at things and get the going. What will happen in the interim? Will the country be without fuel for that period? That is the apprehension really and not that marketers harbour any fear of his coming.”

He also refuted claims that marketers are refusing to import in order to blackmail government into paying the outstanding subsidy.

A glimpse into the manifesto of the All Progressive Congress (APC) shows that the party is silent on its policy direction on oil and gas sector.

The party pays attention on domestication of the operation of Nigerians without any clear path to how it will administer the sector.

The manifesto said: “Make the industry and Nigeria one of the world leading/cutting edge centers for clean oil and gas technologists, scientists, mega structure installation, drilling, processing, production engineers supported with best services and research facilities.”

The party also said it would modernize the NNPC and makes it the national energy champion. Consider breaking it up into more efficient, commercially driven units and strip it of its regulatory powers and enable it tap into international capital market.

“Enforce the government master plan for oil companies to end flaring that pollutes the air and damages people’s health and ensure that they sell at least half of their gas production within Nigeria;
Speedily pass the much-delayed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and ensure that local content issues are fully addressed,” said.

The party also said it will make Nigeria the world’s leading exporter of LNG through the creation of strategic partnerships.

To the (NLC) has declared its opposition to any plan to remove subsidy on petroleum.

Deputy President of Congress, Peters Adeyemi, said that labour does not believe government pays any subsidy on petroleum products. He declared that labour would not accept an increase on the price of petroleum products.