Oil cartel holding Nigeria to ransom – Okonjo-Iweala

Okonjo-Iweala speakingThe Federal Government on Sunday urged oil marketers to be patriotic in their decisions by considering the interest of Nigerians who are always at the receiving end of their actions, noting that they should not hold the country to ransom with their actions.

The Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who made the call while speaking with journalists in Abuja, said contrary to claims by the marketers that they were being owed about N200bn after being paid N156bn last week, what is being owed them is about N131bn.

The marketers had claimed that the government was still owing them an outstanding of N354.4 billion, being payment for oil subsidy claims.

Confirming the figure, the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Thomas Olawore, had said, “The government had paid N154.2bn out of N354.4bn and we are left with a balance of N200.2bn.

“What happens to the N200.2bn? That is why we requested that the government invites us so that we can be told how it intends to liquidate the remaining N200.2bn”.

But Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, who is the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, said this figure was inaccurate because the balance that is left based on Petroleum Pricing Products Regulatory Agency’s template is about N131bn.

She said, “As you know, we paid N156bn recently, N100bn of the principle payment that we owe them and then we paid N56bn interest rate and some remaining exchange rate differentials.

“Prior to that, we have just paid N31bn exchange rate differentials. So at the time we paid that last week, what we had outstanding is N98bn”.

According to the minister, every week, the PPPRA sends data and that is what government only subscribe and certified as what is due to marketers.

“As at now, since we made the announcement last week, it has now risen from N98bn to N131bn outstanding in principle payment.

“And they are now making a demand of N200bn and I asked them what is the balance for”? she queried.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala likened the oil marketers to a small cartel that are into a no risk business based on template negotiated with PPPRA long time ago, which factored in exchange rate differential, and profit margin guarantee.

This situation, she said, leaves the federal government as the sole risk bearer with the marketers bearing zero risk.

She said. “It has become a situation where we have a cartel that can ground the nation to a halt at will. I strongly suggest that the nation has to do something about it”.

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