Fuel subsidy claims: FG determined to tackle fraudsters —Minister

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From SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
MINISTER of Petroleum,
Dieziani Alison-Maduekwe said yesterday that the stringent measures introduced by Federal Government to recover fraudulent oil subsidy claims were meant to checkmate fraudsters in the oil industry.
Accordingly, the minister called on Nigerians to give the Federal Government all necessary support in efforts to tackle corruption in the oil and gas sector in particular and the country in general.
The explanation by minister is coming on the heels of intense fuel scarcity in some cities across the country which has been attributed to the failure by government to meet its obligation to oil marketers by way of subsidy payments.
The Federal Government had recently announced that it was withholding 29 billion Naira claims by some oil marketers as subsidy payment pending the outcome of the investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on the issue.
Minister of Finance Dr. Okonjo-Iweala had disclosed that the Presidential committee on subsidy claims headed by the Group Managing Director of Access Bank Plc Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede had submitted its report in which it uncovered a whopping 232.2 billion Naira unsubstantiated claims.
The Federal Government had in January announced a total removal of subsidy on petroleum products and consequently raised fuel pump price of petrol to 141 Naira per litre. However, protests by anti-subsidy groups in the country forced government to reduce petrol price per litre to 97 Naira.
Fielding questions from State House correspondents, however, the minister who turned 52 yesterday, allayed fears of petrol scarcity during the yuletide as being speculated.
She said: “We are doing everything possible to ensure that does not happen. Initially, the queues came out of the whole fuel subsidy issue and the fact of course that verifications of certain amounts and certain marketers’ claims were being made very stringent and this had toned down. We cannot eat our cakes and have it. We cannot keep calling out for transparency and accountability and pointing at corruption if we are not prepared to bear some of the hardship that will obviously come when you are trying to clean up a sector.
“The verifications were being done, payments could not be made by Finance (ministry) and I think they have said that severally, but the verifications have been done, payments are now being made and like I said the queues are actually beginning to go down.
“We too on the NNPC side, we had pushed out a lot of our strategic reserves in a bid to ensure that people were not overtly put out in terms of fuel scarcity. And if not for this recent union issue I think it could have been completely alienated but I am sure over the next few days it will die down completely.
“We are doing everything we can on ground to ensure that this Christmas will not be like last Christams.
“Well we had a slight union issue over the last few days which we are also trying to handle that created the upsurge again in the fuel queues but that is well on it’s way to being sorted out and so it will go down again.”
Alison-Madukwe also assured of government support as well as creating a level playing field for marketers, saying, “I think that the NNPC is doing everything it can to ensure that there is a level playing field for all interested marketers and operators. You will bear in mind that these are private sector operators and marketers, who actually set up their facilities to make a profit and what we do on government side is to support them in terms of the allocations etc.
“So it is a wholistic approach but it comes in both ways and I think that for the first time in history I must say, government has supported a much greater echelon of indigenous marketers and operators in terms of setting up and also allowing them access into the sector, which is what we intend to continue doing aggressively as we go over the next couple of years.

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