‘Why fuel importers want to meet President-elect’
Ihedioha assures of petroleum bill passage
PETROLEUM marketers will soon meet the President-elect, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), in a renewed bid to stabilise the downstream oil sector.
The Executive Secretary of the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN), Olufemi Adewole, who disclosed this in an exclusive interview with The Guardian at weekend, said that members were planning to meet with the Presidential Transition Committee with a view to finding a solution to the confusion surrounding the importation of petroleum products.
“We have written to the president-elect to meet with him with a view to charting a middle ground that will guarantee the investments of the marketers.
We feel we need to know the policy thrust of the new administration in the downstream sector,” Adewale said. “We must know whether to continue to import with the assurance that the incoming government will pay upon assumption of office.
We also need to know how to brace up for deregulation just in case the new government decides to do away with subsidy. “We also plan to meet with the Presidential Transition Committee on the same issue.
We have written a letter requesting for the meeting but we are yet to decide on the modalities. But one thing we are sure of is that there is the urgent need to meet with the president-elect or his representatives on the way forward as far as the sector is concerned.
It is what he tells us that will be done.” Similarly, House of Representatives Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, has reassured Nigerians that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) would be passed before the end of the seventh National Assembly even as he acquitted the lower legislative chamber of allegations of corruption against the Federal Government.
According to him, the passage of the PIB will do the nation’s petroleum industry and the economy a lot of good.
He said: “I think it is most unfair for anybody to insinuate that the House is not working on the PIB, we have slated the PIB for passage next week and we have mentioned it, we said we have to accomplish it before the end of this assembly.
Ihedioha told newsmen in Benin when he led House members on condolence visit to the Minority Whip, Samson Osagie, at Urhokuosa village in Edo State on the death of his father, Pa Samson Imariagbe Ogbewe: “As we speak, copies of the bill for consideration have been distributed to all members of the House to enable them study it so that they can make very solid input in the cause of its consideration.
“So, come next week, we invite all Nigerians to join us as we take clause by clause consideration of the bill and we believe that its passage will do the petroleum industry and the Nigerian economy a lot of good.”
Nevertheless, he asked Nigerians to hold the Executive arm of government accountable for failure to carry out its own responsibility, stating: “It is unfair for anybody to indicate that we have not done anything.
“First, the leadership of the House in the seventh Assembly has discharged itself as one that leads by example and we have led the House transparently; that is why in the seventh Assembly, there is no banana peel because we led by example.
“We also have done everything we can to expose corrupt practices by any branch of government and members of our society. We have done all we need to do and asked the Executive to do its part.
“If the Executive fails to do its own part, that is not the responsibility of the House and it is not an indictment on the legislature, the legislature has led by example and we exposed corrupt practices where necessary.”
Adewole, who said the Federal Government was not helping matters by refusing to issue a Sovereign Debt Note (SDN) to marketers on the outstanding N156 billion, insisted that government’s excuse that it does not have money to pay is not tenable as the SDN of the N150 billion paid recently was issued back in February.
“We are not saying government must pay all the money now,” he explained. “Government is not sincere when it says that marketers are insisting on collecting the money now.
All we are saying is that issuing such a note to us now will serve as a guarantee that the money will be paid, even if not immediately. But for government to blackmail us by saying we are insisting on payment now cannot be correct.”
He added that there was no apprehension within DAPPMAN over the incoming administration as their members engage in genuine and verifiable business, therefore have nothing to fear from a Buhari presidency. He explained that the decision to contact Buhari was to ensure that efforts are not duplicated, not as a result of apprehension.
“Even our current efforts at ensuring that this present administration issues the SDN are to ensure that all the processes for the product that was imported during the lifespan of this administration are sorted out before it departs, otherwise we will come back to repeat the processes all over,” he said.
“When Buhari takes over on May 29, he will need time to settle down and look at things and get the system going. What will happen in the interim? Will the country be without fuel for that period? That is the apprehension really and not that marketers harbour any fear over Buhari’s coming.”
He added that it would be wrong for government to put a cap to a figure as money owed importers, saying: “The figure rises on daily basis because we import product on daily basis.
“As we import, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) processes and passes same to the Federal Ministry of Finance and other government agencies to do their part towards ensuring payment.
This is the reason the figure cannot be static.” Adewole also refuted claims that marketers were refusing to import in order to blackmail government into paying the outstanding subsidy, explaining:
“It is not a matter of blackmail, it is a matter of banks refusing to issue letters of credit for fuel importation because of the huge debt that we have. “If government can guarantee loans from the banks, we will access it and import.
What we have on our hands is basically an economic issue. Therefore, it is wrong to be sentimental about it.” More so, he brushed aside the insinuation that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) can solely sustain the country if depot owners withdraw from product importation.
According to him, most of the retail outlets in the country rely on depot owners for supply. Meanwhile, sources at the PPPRA told The Guardian that the agency has no role to play in the supply chain other than process marketers’ claims and transmit same to the relevant government agencies for payment.
The agency also corroborated the fluctuation of subsidy claims by the marketers, saying it processes the claims everyday and that the figures keep changing according to the level of claims that are processed.
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