Three weeks after the passage of the N161bn fuel subsidy supplementary budget by the National Assembly, the Federal Government has begun the payment of subsidy claims to oil marketers.
Our correspondent gathered that so far, a total of N94bn from the N161bn supplementary budget had been paid to 23 oil marketers whose paperwork had been completed.
The payment was confirmed by an official of one of the oil marketing firms in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Thursday.
The source, who pleaded not to be named because he was not officially permitted to speak on the issue, said most of the oil marketers whose paperwork had been completed were paid their subsidy claims on Wednesday.
He said, “We commend The PUNCH for the report exposing the emptiness of the fuel subsidy account because it was that story that triggered them to start paying us our subsidy claims.
“I can confirm to you now that they have started paying us subsidy claims and it is our hope that this will continue so that marketers can continue to import petroleum products to meet the demands of Nigerians.”
The payment followed an investigative report published by The PUNCH on Tuesday, which revealed that the Federal Government’s subsidy account with the Central Bank of Nigeria was empty.
Following the passage of the N161.6bn supplementary bill, the Debt Management Office had issued oil marketers with Sovereign Debt Notes.
The issuance of the SDNs by the DMO was to allow the central bank to quickly fund the marketers’ accounts with their respective Deposit Money Banks.
But the oil marketers, who had besieged the CBN on Monday to exchange the SDNs for cash, could not be paid as they were told by officials of the bank that the subsidy account was not cash-backed.
The PUNCH’s report had made the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to on Tuesday direct the Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla, to immediately credit the account.
Specifically, Okonjo-Iweala had while briefing journalists in Abuja said the transfer of funds meant for fuel subsidy from the dollar denominated Excess Crude Account to its naira equivalent accounted for the delay.
She had explained that the documentation and conversion process between the Ministry of Finance and the CBN usually takes between four to five days.
The minister had said ordinarily, if the amount was in the naira account, the process of payment would not have been delayed for that long.
She said, “It doesn’t normally take very long if they were already money in the domestic Excess Crude Account to honour it and this takes immediately.
“Sometimes, we have to shift money from one account to the other, and usually, if the money is in the dollar account for the excess crude and we have to shift it to the naira account, that means it will be converted into naira by the central bank and we have to authenticate the amount and so on.
“So, between the central bank and the Ministry of Finance, it takes between four to five days to accomplish, and the central bank is of course very strict because it has to have all the documentations, but I have been informed just before I came in that the money is being credited to the account now as we speak.”
Okonjo-Iweala said as soon as the account was credited on Tuesday, marketers who had completed their paper works should go for their claims.
She said, “You know the conversion is being done and it is being credited to the account; so, marketers who have not been able to access their money should go today (Tuesday) and they will be paid.
“So, it is not something that takes a long time, it is normally less than a week to finish that procedure. The Accountant-General of the Federation is crediting the account now and they should go and check.”