16 August 2012

Nigeria: Outstanding Claims - FG Willing to Dialogue With Oil Marketers - Okonjo-Iweala

The Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says the Federal Government is willing to dialogue with fuel marketers over payment of outstanding subsidy claims.

Okonjo-Iweala, who is also the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, gave the assurance at a news conference on Thursday in Abuja.

Her assurance is coming on the heels of the return of long fuel queues in Abuja occasioned by oil marketers' threat to suspend operations nationwide within seven days over the continued delay in the payment of their subsidy claims.

The minister said government was opened to dialogue with marketers who had "little infractions" in the fuel subsidy regime.

She, however, warned that government would not succumb to cheap blackmail by some marketers, who had threatened to embark on strike because of delayed subsidy claims payment.

"Those whose infractions may be considered not so egregious, we will be talking to them and if they are willing to talk to us, we will also be willing to settle their claims and they can go on importing.

"But for some of those who are bent on blackmailing the Federal Government even though they have committed very serious infractions in the subsidy claim we are not willing to pay them when they have not cleared their case."

The minister noted that between April and August, the Sovereign Debt Notes amounting to N42.66 billion were issued to 31 oil marketers, in respect of the 2012 fuel subsidy claims.

"There is no holding back or lack of willingness to pay for those who have no case to answer.

We are open, we will dialogue with them and we hope that the dialogue will lead to a situation in which they will not be called upon to undertake these actions that are being undertaken now."

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Minister and other top officials of the ministry later went into a closed door meeting with representatives of some marketers from NEPCO Plc, Sahara Energy and Oando Plc.

Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, the Managing Director and CEO of Access Bank, whose committee investigated and indicted some of the oil marketers, took part in the closed door meeting.

Earlier, the Minister had told reporters that President Goodluck Jonathan had ordered expedited payment of the August salary of Federal Government workers ahead of the Eid-el-Fitri holidays on Monday and Tuesday.

"We are happy to announce that between today and tomorrow, all those in the Federal payroll should be able to collect their salaries and have a good holiday.

"This is based on the directive of Mr President," she said.

Also, the minister told reporters that the third quarter allocation of N300 billion had been released to Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) as part of the capital expenditure of the 2012 budget.

"We are pleased to announce the release of N300 billion for the third quarter capital. I think that this demonstrates government's commitment to realising a significant level of budget implementation this year.

"In percentage terms, with this release we would now have released N704 billion of capital expenditure.

"If you recall we had earlier released N404 billion; this additional N300 billion brings the amount to N704 billion, which is about 53 per cent of the annual capital budget of N1.36 trillion," she said.

Okonjo-Iweala noted that with the N404 billion released at the end of the July, the 2012 budget utilisation rose from 56 per cent in June to 65.4 per cent in August. NAN

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