- Despite Osinbajo’s Directive, Petrol Marketers Yet to be Paid $2bn Subsidy Claims
Petroleum products marketers and depot owners have said that despite the directive by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to the Ministry of Finance to pay the marketers their outstanding subsidy claims, which they estimated at about $2 billion, none of them was paid as at close of work on Friday.
Earlier in the week, Osinbajo summoned a meeting of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA) on May 22, which had the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu; and the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, in attendance.
It was gathered that at the end of the meeting, the Acting President was said to have directed the Finance Ministry to pay the marketers all verified claims so that they could resume importation of petrol.
However, a presidential source last night said there was no formal order in the real sense of it. The source who did not want to be named said the marketers would be paid in no distant time, explaining that the current delay is as a result of shortage of funds.
The Executive Secretary of DAPPMA, Mr. Femi Adewole, also confirmed that Osinbajo had given approval for the marketers to be paid all verified claims.
He, however, raised the alarm that despite the directive by the Acting President, the marketers had not yet been paid.
He pointed out that the delays in the payment of the marketers’ claims could precipitate crisis in the downstream sector as the banks have not backed down on their threats to seize tank farms over the unpaid loans borrowed by the marketers to fund importation during the subsidy regime.
“The Acting President has issued approval for the marketers to be paid. It is the Ministry of Finance that is telling us stories. As at the close of work on Friday, I spoke with the marketers but none of them has received any payment. But the Acting President has given the necessary approval,” Adewole explained.
On the speculations that the marketers would shut down their depots on July 1 (yesterday) in protest against the unpaid bills, Adewole said it was not a matter of going on strike as no bank is currently giving the marketers credit to import products.
He said unless the government paid the outstanding claims, marketers could not go back to the banks to request for credit for importation.
“The banks are not giving us money and are still threatening to seize our tank farms for failing to pay the debts. So, it is not an issue of going on strike or not going on strike because we can’t go to bank to ask for money now,” he added.
The failure of the federal government to pay the marketers their subsidy claims and matured Letters of Credit (LCs), estimated by the marketers at about $2 billion, had eroded their capacity to import petrol, thus imposing the burden of importation of the product on only the NNPC.
The huge debts, which grew as a result of rising cost of forex and the interest charged by the banks that funded the importation of the cargoes, had since forced foreign banks such as the Citi Bank of New York, BNP Paribas and others, which provided the LCs for the importation, to stop opening lines of credits for petrol marketers.
When contacted the Director (Information), Ministry of Finance, Mr. Salisu Na’Inna Dambatta, on the issue yesterday, he said he had no information on the subject-matter.
Dambatta accused our correspondent of being unfair to him by asking to be furnished with information on such a matter on a Saturday evening.
His words: “Mr. Francis, you are being unfair to me. How do you expect me to call the minister at about 6:40 pm on a Saturday? I know what you want to do: you have written your story and decided to call by this time so that you will say the ministry refused to react.”
Efforts to explain to him that the request for the ministry’s response was sequel to the claim by oil marketers yesterday that the Acting President’s directive on payment of their claims had not been carried out by the ministry were futile.
Dambatta, however, expressed his regrets, but insisted there was no way he could reach the minister on a Saturday evening.
Meanwhile, NNPC on Saturday said it intends to maintain a steady supply of petroleum products across Nigeria despite renewed call on the federal government by oil marketers to pay outstanding financial subsidies owed them, or the country risks a fresh round of petroleum products scarcity.
Group General Manager, Public Affairs of NNPC, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, described the complaints and position of the marketers as unfortunate.
Ughamadu, however, explained that the NNPC had in the past intervened in getting the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to establish a special foreign exchange window to enable the marketers to continue to import and distribute petroleum products, adding that as a market participant, the NNPC is owed subsidy claims but it would not stop to import and distribute products.
Insisting that the corporation as the sole importer of petrol in the country at the moment would appreciate supports from all stakeholders, he thus called on oil marketers to continue to show commitments to stability of products supplies in the country.
India, Spain, the Netherlands, USA, Nigeria’s Major Export Markets -NBS
India, Spain and the Netherland top Nigeria’s export markets in the final quarter of 2020, according to the latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The Commodity Price Indices and Terms of Trade Q4 2020 report showed that the United States and China trailed the three.
However, the NBS revealed Nigeria exports mainly crude oil and natural gas during the period under review.
It, “The major export and import market of Nigeria in Q4 2020 were India, Spain, the Netherlands, United States and China.
“The major export to these countries were crude petroleum and natural gas. The major imports from the countries were motor spirits, used vehicles, motorcycles and antibiotics.”
The bureau stated that the all-commodity group import index increased by 0.13 per cent between October and December 2020.
“This was driven mainly by an increase in the prices of base metals and articles of base metals (one per cent), boilers, machinery and appliances; parts thereof (1.03 per cent), and products of the chemical and allied industries (0.75 per cent),” it stated.
The NBS, however, noted that the index was negatively affected by animal and vegetable fats and oils and other cleavage products.
Onyeama: Qatar To Invest $5bn In Nigeria’s Economy
The oil-rich state of Qatar is to invest a total of $5 billion in Nigeria’s economy, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Godfrey Onyeama, has disclosed.
Onyeama, who spoke Sunday at a send forth dinner in honour of Nigeria’s Ambassador-designate to the State of Qatar, who is also the outgoing Director of Protocol (DOP) at the State House, Ambassador Yakubu Ahmed, also stated that recent career ambassadorial appointments made by the gederal government was based on merit, experience and professionalism.
The minister further said there had been discussions with Qatar on partnership with Nigeria’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), for significant investments in the region of $5 billion in the Nigerian economy.
According to him, ‘‘Qatar is a weighty and strategic country and very strategic in that part of the world and we are putting our best feet forward to advance the interest of our country economically and in other areas.”
He recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had visited the State of Qatar in 2016 and the Emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hammad Al-Thani, reciprocated with a State visit in 2019.
Onyeama also explained that only trusted hands with a track record of diligence, experience and professionalism in the Foreign Service were recently appointed career ambassadors by the federal government.
The minister said the appointment of Ahmed and other career ambassadors were predicated on posting dedicated and keen Foreign Service practitioners to serve as image makers of the country.
He said: ‘‘Ambassador Yakubu Ahmed is a dedicated professional with a penchant for rigour and detail. He is very capable and one of the best in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is personable, affable, extremely friendly, dispassionate and objective.
‘‘He is going to head a very important mission, a very important country, reckoned to be one of the richest countries in the world, per capita, and there’s a lot we will be doing with the State of Qatar.”
Also speaking, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Adeola Rahman Ipaye, described the honoree as a ‘‘perfect gentleman, very even-natured and always well turned out’’.
Ipaye said he had no doubt that the newly appointed ambassador would serve the country well in Qatar, adding that: ‘‘We are further encouraged that when he completes this assignment, he would return to serve Nigeria in a higher capacity.’’
In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, while congratulating the outgoing DOP on his appointment, lauded Ahmed for excellent service to the State House and the nation.
‘‘He served this institution and the nation with the deepest sense of responsibility and it is very important that we establish a tradition where the system appreciates those who have served it well and those who will continue to serve it well,’’ he said.
Umar urged the new envoy to keep very fond memories of his time at the Presidential Villa, assuring him of the prayers and goodwill of all the staff.
Responding, Ahmed thanked President Buhari for the great honour and privilege of making him his principal representative in Doha, Qatar.
The Ambassador-designate pledged to deplore his energy and skill to the promotion of the existing cordial relationship between Nigeria and Qatar, particularly in the areas of economic, political, cultural and consular affairs as well as other key areas.
Ahmed, who joined Nigeria’s Foreign Service in 1993, said during his years in public service he had learnt that ‘‘patriotism, selfless service, diligence, determination and perseverance will always result in the achievement of the desired objective’’.
According to him, these virtues would be his ‘‘watchword’’ in the pursuit of Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives and the attainment of national interests.
The Ambassador-designate singled out for appreciation the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and the state Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Lawal Kazaure, saying he had learnt a lot working under their mentorship.
He expressed gratitude to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Secretary, State House for giving him the opportunity of a memorable work experience in the State House.
France, Nigeria to Build New Partnership
France is currently aiming at building a new partnership with Nigeria, with the dispatching of its Minister in charge of Foreign Trade and Attractiveness, Franck Riester, to Nigeria.
Riester, who was expected at the time of filing this report on Monday, is scheduled to visit Nigeria from 12-14 April, 2021.
A statement from the French Embassy in Nigeria said: “Franck Riester is visiting Nigeria from 12 to 14 April, a visit that follows up on the priorities set by French President Emmanuel Macron during his official visit to Nigeria in July 2018 and his desire to build a new partnership between Africa and France.
“As the largest economy in Africa and the economic engine of West Africa, Nigeria is indeed a major partner for France, the first in sub-Saharan Africa with bilateral trade amounting to a total of 4.5 billion USD in 2019 (2.3 billion USD in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic).”
It disclosed that the minister will have several official meetings in Abuja and Lagos, in order to underline the importance of the bilateral economic relationship and to prepare the summit on the financing of African economies in Paris on 18 May.
It revealed that the objective of the mission is also to further strengthen the links between the French and Nigerian private sectors, and “in this regard, the minister will have in-depth discussions with the main Nigerian economic actors to strengthen bilateral cooperation and investments, both in Nigeria and in France, particularly in the logistics sector”.
It said while in the country, the minister would meet with young Nigerian entrepreneurs in the cultural and creative industries sector, to discuss the major role of their country in African creativity and the development of the African entrepreneurial ecosystem, with the support of France.
It further said: “The minister will also open the ‘Choose Africa’ conference, a €3.5 billion initiative by President Emmanuel Macron dedicated to supporting the development of start-ups and SMEs in Africa to enable the continent to benefit fully from the opportunities of the digital revolution.”
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