Monday, 25 May 2015

Okonjo-Iweala Accuses Oil Marketers Of Blackmail

The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Saturday accused petroleum products marketers of blackmail​ by masterminding the current fuel scarcity that has threatened to ground the economy.

The Minister, who was speaking in Abuja, said it was shocking that barely a week after she reached an agreement over ​​N200 billion fuel claims, the marketers reneged and failed to continue selling fuel to consumers.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke of efforts the government was making to ensure that the marketers’ claims were paid, said apart from the N154 billion paid a fortnight ago, about N31 billion and N350 billion were paid to the marketers previously.

She said it was curious that despite these efforts by the government in a year it was going through difficult times, the marketers were showing so much bad faith.

The minister said after the N154 billion was paid and the marketers claim up with a new request of N200 billion as their outstanding claims, it was found out that about N159 billion was actually what they were asking for as exchange rate differential.

Consequently, she said it was agreed that a committee be set up to verify the claims before the payment was be made.

The committee was headed by the Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Farouk Ahmed, with the Director General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Abraham Nwankwo, as well as two Directors-General from the Ministry as members.

“The marketers wanted me (Minister) to sign the claim for the payment of N159 billion and I said no, because Nigerians don’t know what is exchange rate differential. We had to call those agencies responsible to verify those claims in view of the fact that there has been so much fraud and manipulations in the claims by oil marketers,” Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said.

“We have to be very careful, so that Nigerians would not accuse us of giving away their money for something that was not real.

“It is the demonstration of the highest sense of bad faith that after we had an agreement during the meeting and they said everything had been settled, only for the marketers to turn around the very next day to say a complete opposite thing.​

“They next day they shut down all the filling stations, except few of them who opened to sell. What does that tell you?

“My conclusion is that the marketers just want Nigerians to suffer. Anyone who thinks that this whole thing has to do with the money being owed is not being truthful. If it was so, the marketers would have waited for the verification to be completed.

“It is wrong to shut down their stations and depots a day after reaching an agreement with government just to make a lot money from the black market. Nigerians should not be blackmailed. Nigerians should not allow themselves to be blackmailed by the oil marketers,” the Minister said.

Premium Times

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