Nigeria’s finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has set an agenda for the Buhari administration: to tame urgently the oil cartel holding the nation to ransom.
She spoke in Abuja today to refute the claim by the oil marketers that the nation is owing them another N200.2bn, just after the government paid them N156bn.
She said by government’s computation, the outstanding amount is about N131bn billion.
Okonjo-Iweala urged the marketers to be patriotic in their decisions by considering the interest of Nigerians who always bear the brunt of their actions, noting that they should not by their actions hold the country to ransom.
The marketers had claimed that the government’s indebtedness to them for oil subsidy was about N354,4bn.
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 invite us so that we can be told how it intends to liquidate the remaining N200.2bn.”
But the minister said this figure could not be correct, noting that 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 principal 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 her, every week, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency 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 added.
She 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 them with absolutely no 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.