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Oil subsidy: Senate charges FG to pay marketers N429bn arrears to avert looming fuel scarcity

…Accuses executive of sabotaging itself …Oil marketers give 7-day ultimatum to sack workers To avert looming fuel scarcity that might disrupt the Christmas festive season and the 2019 General elections slated for early next year, the Senate on Thursday charged the Federal Government to take a proactive step of paying subsidy arrears totalling N429 billion to independent oil marketers The lawmakers held the government culpable of insincerity and discrepancies amounting to sabotaging genuine plans to offset the subsidy crisis This was coming as the oil marketers have issued a 7-day ultimatum to the federal government to pay the money or risk a major crisis in fuel supply during the Christmas, New Year and election period should the marketers sack staff in their workforce. The senate as a matter of urgency directed all agencies concerned with the payment of oil subsidy arrears as approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and National Assembly respectively to do so without further delay The upper Chamber as well pleaded with the Oil marketers to as a matter of national interest, to rescind their decision on the ultimatum and allow the government to take action. It in addition urged Federal government to engage the marketers and agree on outstanding liabilities with a view to bringing an end to the disagreement while urging the Oil Marketers and Debt Management Office (DMO) to meet and agree on the instrument to be used in payment. These resolutions of the Senate followed a motion raised by Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC-Zamfara) who is the chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream). Standing Order 42 and 52 of Senate Rules Marafa said the Committee received a letter from oil marketers association DAPMAN and was reviewed with all the seriousness it deserves. The letter reads in part:”After a long battle with the Executive on the subsidy payment, the association gave government an ultimatum of seven days within which to act. “You’ll recall that when this government came on board, it abolished subsidy. But some players came up with claims of unpaid amounts. The government made payments, but shortly after the marketers said they were not fully paid. “Thereafter, the naira got devalued. Marketers were not paid for years. “There’s a differential of 172bn and 300bn. Payment was made since June last year. Because of these issues, the marketers engaged government. “The National Assembly approved the promissory note request the Executive sent to us for approval in order to settle the debts. “The CBN came up with very cumbersome ways of paying the money. But the marketers decided to give an ultimatum within which the issue must be resolved, if not they will shut down the industry,” he noted. Marafa expressed fear that unless urgent measures are taken to avert the looming fuel scarcity Nigerians would be plunged into an untold hardship during the xmas , new year and election period. “The action of the marketers, if not checked, will create artificial fuel scarcity that may span into the election period. “The debt profile has risen to about N1trn from the initial N600bn claimed by the marketers,” Marafa added. Contributing to the motion, Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said that the Buhari administration has patriotically approved the money. He said “We approved this money knowing full well where the money is going to. “I believe there are people that are bent on sabotaging this administration,” he noted. However, Sen Ibrahim Danbaba (PDP Sokoto South) disagreed with the alleged sabotage saying “In actual sense, some of us have reservations on the issue of how this liability came to being. It is not question of anybody wanting to sabotage the government, who is responsible for calling the relevant agencies to order? “As long as people are not held responsible for their shortcomings, we’ll continue to have this problem. “There’s no issue of sabotage in this matter. If there’s anything like that, it is the government that’s sabotaging itself.” Sen Yahaya Abdullahi (APC Kebbi) said : “We Went through this matter as a committee and did an audit of the whole matter. Whoever is holding this payment doesn’t mean well to this country. “We should try as a Senate to investigate the matter to find out who are giving this government bad advice on this matter. Senator Barnabas Gemade (PDP Benue) said “I’ve never witnessed a more clumsy and confusing motion in this Senate of recent than this. What’s the direction of this motion? Who this motion is trying to blame? “This is matter that the National Assembly has given approval, and all the agencies responsible for the payment are under the Executive, and we came here to worry about something that has nothing to do with us. “Who is stopping the payment in the Executive? Someone somewhere is not doing his duty and that doesn’t fall under the purview of the National Assembly? Is it the DMO, CBN, ministry of finance or who is delaying this approval? ‎”The person sabotaging the government on this can’t be from this parliament, exactly.” Sen Emmanuel Paulker (Bayelsa PDP) said: “I recall that one of the cheap political points scored by this administration was this issue of subsidy when they came to power. “This government owes the generality of Nigerians to give supply of fuel without any restrictions. It’s a sad commentary that from the about N429 billion approved by this Senate, we’re now talking about around N1trn. ‎”Is there no leadership that can put punitive measures to sanction those within who are trying to sabotage the government? Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (PDP Kaduna) said: “It is straightforward. Yes, there may be sabotage, but it must be from within the Executive. It is worrisome; we know at the inception of this administration, we know its psyche on the issue of subsidy. “There are deeper, stronger and serious issues on subsidy issues than what we have in our hands.” In his remark, Deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu urged the federal government to always respect its agreement with people, not just the oil marketers adding “once you reach an agreement that agreement has to be kept and everybody should be able to honour the agreement.” He further added, “More importantly is that the oil marketers and all those that are being owed now are employers of so many Nigerians and if these people are not paid then the jobs of those Nigerians are being put in jeopardy and of cause the banks that gave them money may not be in the position to give money to other sectors. “So the implication is quite huge for us as a country, so I join the rest of you guys in saying that government need to ensure that these monies is paid such that we have sufficient fuel supply as we are going into the Xmas, the New Year and elections”. Tunde Opalana, Abuja

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