Fuel subsidy claims rise to N1trn as Senate calls for speedy payment

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Fuel queue
Fuel queue

Following a threat for strike by the Nigeria’s oil marketers associations over nonpaymet of oil subsidy claims by the Federal Government, the Senate has called on the government to direct its concerned agencies to immediately pay the subsidy arrears which have risen from N429 billion to N1 trillion.

The upper legislative chamber also appealed to the oil marketers to rescind their seven days ultimatum issued to the government, so as to enable the government a little more time to look into their demands.

The resolutions were sequel to the adoption of a motion moved to by Senator Kabiru Marafa at the Thursday sitting.

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Mr Marafa who is the chairman of Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), moved a motion titled: “Urgent Need to avert a looming crisis in fuel supply due to non -payment of approved subsidy arrears to oil marketers,” said the unpaid debt has forced many of the marketers out of business.

According to him, it was unbelievable that the money has not been paid even after the intervention and recommendation of the National Assembly for such payment in July this year.

He added that the failure of relevant authorities to effect payment of the subsidy claims to the oil marketers led to the latest threat to sack workers in the sector.

He stated that the planned strike action of the oil marketers, if not promptly checked, may result into artificial fuel scarcity that may span through the election period.

He also said that the continuous delay in the payment of the arrears would further balloon the bank charges on those of the marketers servicing loans as according to him, the debt has already increased the debt from about N429 billion to N1 trillion between June 2017 and now.

Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan (APC Yobe North) in his contributions said that though it was worrisome that the subsidy claims have not been paid up till now, saboteurs within must be responsible for the unnecessary delay.

He was, however, opposed by Senator Ibrahim Abdullahi Danbaba (PDP Sokoto South), who stated that the Federal Government was sabotaging itself as far as non-payment of the subsidy claims was concerned.

He said: “The issue about these liabilities is that in actual sense, some of us have reservations on how these liabilities came into being, because I can recall in 2015, a supplementary bill was sent to the National Assembly and our committee, the Appropriations Committee, deliberated on that and we even made suggestions with regards to outstanding liabilities associated with subsidy up to December even though the executive bill that came covered the period of up to September only.

“So it is not a question of anybody wanting to sabotage the government. In actual sense, who is supposed to be responsible for the settlement of these liabilities? It is the government.

“I know that our committee has been up and doing. In fact, we have been inviting critical stakeholders including the CBN Governor, Ministering Finance but as far as I can remember, all of them declined appearing before our committee.

“They appeared only through delegation. And that contributed to the position where we are today. As long as people are not held responsible for their shortcomings, we will continue to have this problem.

“Therefore, there is no question of sabotage. If there is an element of sabotage, it is the government itself that is sabotaging itself because of the issue of how this matter should be settled rest with those people that are in control of our finances in the Executive arm of government.

“The marketers are frustrated because some agencies of government do not want to cooperate with the committee so that this matter can be put to rest once and for all.”

Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the sitting, said that the government, through the relevant agencies should address the problem of the oil marketers to avoid another fuel scarcity at this critical time of the year.

He said: “Government should be able to keep to its agreement with people, not just these oil marketers but once you reach an agreement with people, unions or Association, that agreement has to be kept.”