FROM ISAAC ANUMIHE, ABUJA
Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala yesterday disputed the claim by petroleum oil marketers that the Federal Government is owing them N200 billion, saying that what the government actually owed them stood at N131 billion.
Speaking to newsmen in Abuja, the Minister explained that last week the Federal Government paid the marketers N156 billion but noted that since after the payment the debt had risen to N131 billion. “Since December we have paid half a trillion naira. We have paid N500 billion. So, we have tried really hard and so we have appealed to them that they are also Nigerians. With the fact that we have prioritized them in their payment so Nigerians won’t suffer. That has been the main tenet of this. Let us try and pay eventhough we have serious revenue challenges so that Nigerians won’t suffer, Nigerians won’t be in queues” she appealed.
While further appealing to the marketers to see reason and not allow Nigerians to suffer unduly, she also picked holes on the template they are using which covers all the costs in the business including the profit margin, exchange rate differential and interest rate differentials.
“But the marketers, as you know the template that governs their business is designed to cover all their costs plus a profit margin. That is PPPRA (Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency) template against which I have quarrelled for quite sometime. So it is really no risk business for them. Or very little risks. I am not saying there is no stress. Of course, they have stress. But the risks are all covered by the template that was negotiated with PPPRA long ago. And it is actually that template that we have been quarrelling with.
“That template says that they must be paid exchange rate differentials, interest rates, profit margin guarantee plus the principal amount they spent in the business.
“Based on that that the government is taking a full risk in their business according to this template, even when we have revenue shortfall, any interest that accrues has to be paid by government. That is what was negotiated. So, they are in a no risk business and we have been pleading with them that if that is the case at least supply Nigerians with the fuel because at the end of the day the government is still paying for all of this. Why are you making Nigerians suffer? Why these long queues?” she queried. For her, it appears that a group of people have formed a cartel with a view to grounding the country. “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.
Source : SunOnline