Acute shortage of premium motor spirit (PMS) also known as petrol is looming as oil marketers yesterday gave the Federal Government a seven-day ultimatum to settle outstanding debts of about N800 billion. The marketers also threatened that operations at depots across the country would also be halted if government failed to meet up with the ultimatum.
The marketers, comprising Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA) and Independent Petroleum Products Importers (IPPIs), have been facing tough time over the subsidy debts. They said, according to the News agency of Nigeria (NAN), that they are likely to engage in mass disengagement of workers as their financial crunch degenerates. Confirming the seven-day notice, Executive Secretary of DAPPMA, Mr. Olufemi Adewole, disclosed that the oil marketers on November 28 served the ultimatum letter on the Debt Management Office (DMO), minister of finance, Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Department of State Services and minister of state for petroleum resources.
“We urge DMO to process and pay marketers in cash for their outstanding forex differentials and interest component claims, together with the amount already approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the National Assembly. “Marketers are not in a position to discount payment on the subsidy induced debt owed as proposed by DMO,” he said.
The expected payment, the DAPPMAN scribe said, “is made up of bank loans, outstanding administrative charges due to PPPRA, outstanding bridging fund due Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board and in a few cases AMCON judgement debts. “We urge that the FEC approved payment instrument (the promissory note) be substituted with cash and paid through our bankers to stop the avoidable waste of public funds through these debts accruing interest.” Corroborating Adewole’s view, Legal Adviser to the marketers, Mr. Patrick Etim, also maintained that banks have taken over investments and assets of oil marketers over unpaid debts. According to Etim, marketers have no choice but to ask their workers to stay at home over unpaid salary arrears due to huge subsidy debts owed by government.
“The only way to salvage the situation is for government to pay the oil marketers the outstanding debts through cash option instead of promissory note being proposed. “As I speak, nothing has been done several months after assurances received from government saying it would pay off the outstanding debts. “The oil marketers have requested that forex differential and interest component of government’s indebtedness to marketers be calculated up to December 2018 and paid within the next seven days from the date of the letter sent to government,” he said. Etim said that several thousand jobs were on the line in the industry, as oil marketers began cut-down of their workforce due to inability to pay salaries “At the inception of the current administration, marketers engaged government with the view to secure approval for all outstanding subsidy-induced debts handed over to the current administration,” he said.
The counsel said that the current administration paid part of the debts with a substantial portion of the subsidy interest and foreign exchange differential still pending. DAPPMA also urged government institutions involved in resolving the lingering problem to appreciate the situation marketers faced and expedite payment of the debts in full without further delay.