Fuel Subsidy: Okonjo-Iweala Says N94 Billion Will Be Disbursed Soon

The Coordinating Minister for the economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Tuesday refuted media reports which allege that her ministry is blocking subsidy payments to verified marketers.

The Coordinating Minister for the economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala addressing a news conference in Abuja

Addressing a news conference in Abuja, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said that the ministry of finance made the N161.6 billion supplementary budget for subsidy payments which had been approved by the National Assembly available to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) since 31 December 2012.

“As at 31st of December the Ministry of Finance had approved for this money to be available in the Central Bank accounts, where they can be accessed by the marketers,” she said.

The Minister said the payments are presently going through the CBN processes which include the conversion of the dollar equivalent from the excess crude account and will be concluded soon.

She also confirmed that payments totalling N94 billion have been verified for 23 marketers who will be paid in the next few days.

Finance Minister is playing Anambra politics – Ifeanyi Uba

The Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas, Ifeanyi Uba on Monday accused the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of using her position to engage in local politics.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Uba said the Minister is also assuming the position of a god.

“She’s playing Anambra state politics with her job and reputation. She is assuming to be god; she’s not god,” he said.

Uba denies receiving help from Maduka; calls Cosharis group ‘pure water’ business

The Managing Director of Capital Oil and gas, Ifeanyi Uba on Monday denied claims by the Chief Executive Officer of Cosharis group, Cosmos Maduka that he offered him (Mr Uba) a lifeline when his business was in the brink of collapse.

“Is it by his pure water business that he’ll be able to come and help me,” Mr Uba, who was a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, asked.

Mr Uba said he believes politicians were influencing the Cosharis boss, whom he referred to as an uncle, to engage in the media war with him.

Mr Maduka had claimed that since Mr Uba and his company (Capital Oil and Gas) were labelled by most commercial banks in Nigeria as ‘unbankable’, he helped the oil merchant to obtain a loan of $180 million from Access Bank to finance the importation of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).

The Cosharis boss also alleged that 10 letters of credit were opened and that of the 10 expected cargoes, only six were delivered.

Disputing Mr Maduka’s claims, Mr Ubah said “everything about that story is false.”

When asked if it was true that he is indebted to Access Bank to the tune of N21 billion, Mr Uba said ‘you can’t eat your cake and have it’.

He said the loan he obtained from the bank was what he used to import petrol of which his company is yet to receive subsidy payment. “The money is sitting in Access Bank,” he said.

“Access Bank is the consignee of all the vessels imported. Therefore, if they are accusing of fraud, then it is all of us together,” he added.

Fuel Subsidy: FG paid over N259 billion in 2011-2012

The Federal Government on Monday said it has paid a total of N259, 339, 041, 657.85 as subsidy claims between 2011 and 2012.

Paul Nwabuikwu, the Senior Special Assistant to the Coordinating Minister and Minister of Finance in a press statement said “contrary to the impression given by some marketers and their agents, the Federal Government has continued to pay marketers whose claims have been duly verified.”

He said that the Federal Government is committed to encouraging honest and professional private sector operators in the subsidy regime.

“As the attached information shows, in addition to other verified payments made in 2011-2012, a total of N34.6 billion was paid on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 alone.

“In all, a total of N259, 339, 041, 657.85 has been paid in 2011-2012,” he said.

Mr Nwabuikwu however, said that in line with the Federal Ministry of Finance regulations, “only marketers whose documents have been verified, processed and cleared will be paid.”

He further said that “both the number of claims by marketers and the amount paid have reduced significantly due to the work of the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee and the rigorous procedures which have been adopted to check fraud.”

Update on payments to oil marketers whose claims have been verified.

NUPENG agrees to resume fuel distribution in Abuja

Abuja will not be seeing long queues from friday as the national union of petroleum and natural gas workers nupeng has lifted the strike.

Petrol tankers are now allowed into the city to dispense fuel to petrol stations.

The federal government reached an agreement with the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), the Nigeria Labour Congress and oil marketers during a closed door meeting in Abuja that lasted for over 9 hours.

In a communique signed by all parties and read by the Minister of Labour Emeka Wogu, it was resolved that all the issues raised over subsidy payments, non payment of salaries among others will be looked into and reviewed in 2weeks.

NUPENG puts nationwide strike on hold

The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) on Wednesday suspended its planned nationwide industrial action till negotiation with the Federal Government is concluded on Thursday.

National president NUPENG, Achese Igwe

The National president of the union, Igwe Achese told journalists after a closed door meeting with government officials that the proposed nationwide strike is on hold till after Thursday’s talks.

He said the meeting on Tuesday night was merely explorative and not in-depth negotiations however both parties have agreed to return for more talks to put an end to the crises.

He said NUPENG will not support or cover fraudulent oil marketers but government must pay attention to the genuine issues on ground.

The meeting was chaired by the secretary to the government of the federation, Anyim Pius Anyim and the Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu.

We’re not going on strike for oil marketers but for workers – NUPENG

The president of  the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Achese Igwe has argued that the industrial action threatened by the union is not for the payment of oil subsidies to fraudulent oil marketers but to secure the payment of  salaries to workers in the sector.

Mr. Igwe was on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily, to explain the reasons for the impending strike which has already grounded the Federal Capital Territory, leaving the residents to resort to black market for fuel.

The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, recently alleged that the oil workers union was working in connivance with the oil marketers to blackmail the federal government over the payment of fuel subsidy.

The union leader however accused the federal government of non-compliance to earlier agreements with the union which included agreement on subsidy payments, repair of bad roads across the country plied by oil distributing trucks and refinery maintenance.

According to Mr Igwe, some of the workers in the sector are currently being owed salaries for over three months.

Reacting to the planned strike by NUPENG, the spokesman for the Civil Liberty Organsation, Abah Ejembi speaking from Channels Television’s Abuja studio, urged the union not to put the lives of over 160 million Nigerians at risk with the struggle for their union members,  that number about 15,000 by compelling the federal government to pay the subsidy claims that are shrouded in fraud.

Mr. Abah Ejembi claimed that NUPENG is fighting the battle for their ‘bosses’-the oil marketers who are entangled in allegations of fraudulent claims in the management of the nation’s fuel subsidy regime with the Ministry of Finance.






Fuel Subsidy scam: Court grants N100 million bail to Arisekola-Alao’s son

A Lagos High Court on Wednesday, granted a N100 million bail to Abdullahi Alao, son of Ibadan businessman, Alhaji Abdulaziz Arisekola-Alao.

Abdullahi Alao (R) with his lawyer,

The junior Alao is standing trial for making fraudulent claims in the fuel subsidy payments.

Abdullahi and his company, Axenergy Limited, were on July 26 arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on seven counts of collecting about N2.64 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as subsidy payment for the purported importation of 33.3million litres Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).

Presiding Judge, Justice Habeeb Abiru granted Mr Alao the bail in the sum of N100million with two sureties in like sum.

He held that the EFCC failed to give cogent reasons to warrant the refusal of the bail application.

The judge adjourned the matter till October 22, 2012 for commencement for trial.

Alao, who also faces a separate charge along with Mahmud Tukur, son of the incumbent National Chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Alex Ochonogo and Eterna Oil and Gas Limited, had earlier on July 27, been granted bail by another Lagos High Court, judge, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo.

‎​But he was remanded with the EFCC so that Justice Abiru will determine whether to grant him bail or not for the second charge filed against him by the anti-graft agency.

NUPENG begins strike today

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has threatened to embark on an indefinite strike over the failure of the federal government to pay subsidy for imported petroleum products and the poor state of the country’ refineries among other issues.

The group disclosed this at a media briefing addressed by its national president, Achese Igwe, in Lagos.

Meanwhile, the NUPENG president said the union will begin its planned strike today in sympathy with their members sacked on Wednesday by the MRS Oil and Gas Plc.

Mr Igwe said the strike will continue until the MRS management reinstates the sacked drivers.

He said: “Despite the promises and understanding reached between the union and the management of MRS, the company still went ahead to sack our members, about 2,500 tanker drivers.

“The action of the company is not acceptable to us as a union.”

He said the strike would be restricted to the Lagos zone, which includes Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Oyo, Osun and Kwara States.

Other parts of the country depend on this area for supply of fuel; therefore, it would be more like a national strike.

Mr Achese said that other parts of the country might join the strike in sympathy and solidarity.

Presidential committee says 21 firms stole N382 billion subsidy money

Twenty one oil marketers were on Tuesday indicted for fraudulently collecting N382 billion last year in subsidy payments for fuel that was never delivered.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee set up on the 2011 fuel subsidy scheme disclosed this while addressing journalists after submitting the final report to President Goodluck Jonathan.

“The first (step) is the recovery of the N382 billion,” Mr Imokhuede said.

The probe commissioned by Mr Jonathan is the latest in a string of investigations into fuel subsidy scheme that is rife with corruption and a massive drain on the country’s finances.

“The next is possible criminal investigation and prosecution of the OMT (oil marketing and trading companies) … also, the external auditors and any government functionaries who served will be further interviewed to determine the roles if any in the issues that were discussed.”
Mr Imokhuede did not name specific companies but some of the world’s largest oil traders import petrol into the country, along with marketers owned by some of the richest and most powerful Nigerians.

Nigeria is among the top 10 crude oil exporters in the world but due to decades of corruption and mismanagement it has to import most of its refined fuel needs.

The Federal Government scrapped payment of fuel subsidy on January 1, potentially saving the country over $6 billion. But more than a week of strikes and protests erupted across the country against the higher cost of fuel, forcing the government to partially reinstate subsidy payments.

The first probe

Following the protest against the removal of fuel subsidy, the House of Representatives constituted an ad-hoc committee chaired by Farouk Lawan to probe the the scheme earlier this year.

Mr Lawn’s committee uncovered fraudulent payments over three years of about N1.7 trillion.

But now his committee’s report is being called into question over allegations that Mr Lawan demanded, and took part of, a $3 million bribe from the Chairman of Zenon oil and Gas, Femi Otedola in order to remove his company from the list of fraudsters.

Mr Lawan’s lawyer said the lawmaker took $500,000 offered to him by Mr Otedola, but only in order to expose him, saying he disclosed the bribe to the Chairman of the House committee on Drugs/Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Adams Jagaba and handed the cash to him.

Mr Lawan’s report not only highlighted the oil marketers’ crimes but also pointed the finger at high level politicians, including Oil Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke.

Mr Imokhuede’s committee has focused on oil companies rather than government officials.

Another fuel scarcity looms

The Ministry of Finance has held off subsidy payments until probes into marketers have been completed, prompting anger from importers and risking fuel shortages.

The Fuel union Jetty and Petroleum Tank Farm Owners of Nigeria (JEPTFON) is shutting down fuel distribution facilities this week and another labour group, the Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association (DAPPMA), threatened to join them within 48 hours if government did not pay outstanding subsidies.

The subsidy is stretching Nigeria’s finances and draining oil savings. The Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Lawan Ngama said in June that only had N370 billion is left to pay subsidies, out of the N888 billion in the 2012 budget.

The Central Bank has said the subsidy budget will run out well before the end of the year, which means they will need to raid savings to pay for it.

State governors under the aegis of Nigeria Governors Forum have said they will take the federal government to court for what they call “illegal” over-budget subsidy payments.

Fuel scarcity looms as petroleum marketers threaten shutdown

Petroleum products marketers under the aegis of Jetties and Petroleum Tank Farms Owners of Nigeria (JEPTFON) have threatened to shut down operations with effect from Monday next week if government does not rectify the subsidy payment process.

The marketers, who ventilated their grievance over the federal government’s unilateral action to withhold payment of subsidy, said the action of government was threatening the continued survival of their business and the larger economy.

In a communique issued at the end of an emergency meeting in Abuja on Friday, the Executive Secretary of the association, Enoch Kanawa said the withdrawal of subsidy payments is also a clear breach of contractual obligations, insisting that outstanding payments to subsidy claims should also be paid in full.

The jetties and tank farm owners also described as unacceptable the unguided statements by government officials labelling members of its association as fraudulent and irresponsible, demanding immediate apology.