The Senate yesterday took a bold step to avert fuel scarcity in the country as it urged the Federal Government to within two weeks pay all outstanding fuel subsidy claims owed independent oil marketers in the country since 2006.
This is coming as the marketers’ indebtedness to banks rose from N429 billion to about N1trillion in 18 months.
It also advised oil marketers not to carry out their threat to sack all workers this month due to federal government’s refusal to pay their outstanding claims.
The upper legislative chamber’s decision was sequel to a motion titled “Urgent Need to Avert Looming Crisis in Fuel Supply Due to Non-payment of Approved Subsidy Arrears to Oil Marketers,” by Senator Kabir Marafa ( Zamfara Central), and co- sponsored by 26 other Senators, including Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, and Senators Omotayo Alasoadura, Mao Ohuabunwa, Rose Oko and Abdullahi Adamu.
The lawmakers, therefore, resolved that the federal government should urgently direct all concerned agencies to immediately pay the subsidy arrears as approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and passed by the National Assembly within two weeks.
While expressing concern that the delay in the payment of the arrears has increased the marketers indebtedness to banks from N429 billion to about N1trillion, the Senate further urged the federal government to engage the oil marketers and agree on all outstanding liabilities “so as to put an end to all subsidy claims”.
The Senate noted that oil subsidy debt had forced some marketers out of business while others are currently being subjected to ‘Mareva Injunctions’.
The lawmakers added that after passage of the executive’s request by the National Assembly , the Debt Management Office (DMO) introduced stringent measures for the issuance of the promissory note which include document review by an international accounting firm and a reverse auction for the issuance of the notes.
It further observed that the procedure of document review by an international accounting firm after it was authenticated by the Presidential Initiative for Continuous Audit (PICA) approved by Federal Executive Council, (FEC) and passed by the legislature is a questionable process.
Earlier, Marafa who is Chairman of Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), had called on the Senate to wade into the impending face-off between the federal government and the oil marketers over the non-payment of the 12-year old fuel subsidy claims to the marketers.
He expressed concern that the action of the marketers if not well managed may lead to artificial fuel scarcity that could span through the election period with negative impact on the citizenry.
On his part, Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, attributed the problem to the handiwork of saboteurs within the system that needed to be addressed.
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, said the issue should not be over flogged and stressed the need for government to honour its agreement with the oil marketers “as the jobs of the workers in oil marketing firms are on the line and the implication huge”.