The Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) has criticised the federal government for not paying the subsidy claims by petroleum product marketers despite approval by the National Assembly since July.
Members of the committee, at a meeting in Abuja on Wednesday, accused the government agencies in charge, of slowing down the process of paying petroleum product marketers “what was owed as and when due”.
The Nigerian government has consistently said it has stopped paying subsidy on fuel but rather now pays funds for ‘under-recovery’ for differentials in the importation of fuel by marketers.
The Senate had in July 2018 approved N348 billion for the payment of subsidy claims to oil marketing companies based on a request by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The approval was sequel to the adoption of an interim report by the committee on the promissory note programme and bond issuance to settle inherited local debts and contractual obligations to petroleum marketers.
While approving that 55 oil marketers be paid verified figures totalling N275.8 billion, the upper chamber of the National Assembly had asked that 19 marketers “with contentious claims and verified figures” be paid 65 per cent of their claims, amounting to N73 billion, pending further investigation and verification by the committee.
At the meeting, the chairman of the committee, Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara), said the essence of the meeting was to know how much the federal government had implemented the Senate’s resolution, the situation with the 19 marketers with contentious claims, and the solution to the continued conflict of subsidy figures between the government and oil marketers.
The Director-General, Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, however, said that while the payments were approved by the Senate in July, “the office did not receive communication from the Clerk to the National Assembly until September.”
She explained that the processes through which the payments would be made were detailed in the request made to the Federal Executive Council, which was passed and forwarded to the National Assembly for approval.
According to her, the processes, which must be followed, are still ongoing and the DMO will engage the marketers by the middle of November.
The committee, thereafter, resolved that the Ministry of Finance should within one week call a meeting of other government agencies and the marketers to reconcile subsidy claim figures and discuss ways of fast-tracking the payment of arrears.
The teams are to report back to the committee next week.