We will negotiate with indicted fuel subsidy cabal, says Okonjo-Iweala

Mamman Ali and Mahmud Tukur
Mahmud Tukur middle, and Mamman Ali right were indicted for fuel subsidy fraud

Mamman Ali and Mahmud Tukur

To prevent nationwide fuel scarcity, the FG will negotiate with fraudulent oil marketers 

Idris Akinbajo with Agency reports

The Federal Government is willing to negotiate with some petrol marketers who were indicted for fraudulently benefiting from the 2011 fuel subsidy payments (the cabal), Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said on Thursday.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, who is also the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, stated this at a news conference in Abuja.

The minister said government was open to dialogue with marketers who had “little infractions’’ in the corruption-ridden fuel subsidy regime.

“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,” Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said.

The minister did not clarify what “little infractions” meant, and what the Federal Government (FG) was willing to concede to the indicted marketers.

The indicted marketers, who have been recommended to return N382 billion by the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede presidential committee, committed various categories of offences; ranging from claiming subsidy for non-imported petrol to making more subsidy claims than they deserved.

Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede had told Nigerians during the submission of his committee’s report not to expect the FG to recover all the N382 billion from the indicted firms.

We won’t succumb to blackmail

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala also said that the long queues that have resurfaced in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, were not enough reasons for the government to negotiate with some marketers whom she described as blackmailers.

“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,” she said.

The junior minister in the finance ministry, Yerima Ngama, had Wednesday alleged that some of the indicted marketers were responsible for the fuel shortages being witnessed in Abuja.

The Abuja fuel queues are an indication of what to expect across the country if petrol marketers make good their threat to suspend fuel distribution should their subsidy claims remain unpaid by the federal government.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala however assured genuine marketers of payment of their claims saying “there is no holding back or lack of willingness to pay for those who have no case to answer.”

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

The minister said the government was still in talks with the marketers over the impasse.

“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,” she said.

After her briefing, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala went into a meeting with representatives of some oil marketers including Sahara Energy, Oando Plc, and NEPCO Plc.

The banker, whose committee indicted the petrol marketers, Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede, also took part in the closed-door meeting.

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