Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Govt blacklists 12 petroleum marketers over payment fraud

THE Petroleum Equalisation Fund Management Board (PEFMB) has blacklisted 12 petroleum marketers fingered for trying to cheat government by seeking payment of ‘bridging payment’.

  Meanwhile, the nation’s major oil marketers have refuted reports of their being fully paid arrears of verified claims for this year.

  The General Manager, Corporate Services of PEFMB, Goddy Nnadi, disclosed to The Guardian Tuesday, that the marketers, currently being investigated, have been banned from all bridging and equalisation transactions for the next six months.

  According to Nnadi, all the directors of the companies have also been barred, and will not be accepted under different company names.

  He added: “Staff of the blacklisted companies were fingered in the stealing of tags affixed on petroleum tankers under the acclaimed project Aquila; meant to monitor the loading and delivery of products.

  He noted that out of the 12 marketers found wanting, the agency has convicted one of them and would not hesitate to clamp down on marketers who engage in sharp practices.

  Nnadi who put the number of petroleum marketers at over 6,000, assured that the agency would ensure that it eradicate the unwholesome act.

  “The board, worried by the theft of the tags, had started massive sensitisation to warn marketers of the dangers of the theft of the tag issued free. It has therefore, imposed penalties for the loss of tags, and as introduced new process for the registration and tagging of trucks. “Marketers with damaged tags will pay a replacement fee of N50, 000 and those who lose the tags will pay N50,000. Tagging of new trucks will continue to be free. The board is collaborating with security agencies to ensure full prosecution of offending marketers, who if found guilty in the law courts, will be blacklisted and their names published in the media”, he stated.

 Project Aquila was introduced to combat the high incidence of fraud in the movement of petroleum products around the country, which involves electronic monitoring of product distribution from depots to points of discharge.

  Every year over N17 billion is paid to petroleum products transporters from the Petroleum Equalisation Fund, for distributing products nationwide, and this amount is built into every litre of products purchased by consumers.

  The Fund is intended to plug the gap ensuring that uniform petroleum products prices are maintained throughout the country. Unfortunately, the system has been prone to abuse and the electronic monitoring system was brought in to make it easier to monitor the distribution of products.
 The major oil marketers refutal over claims of subsidy payment was against the backdrop of a press report where the government was said to have paid all verified claims for subsidy this year.

  Officials of the concerned oil companies, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, affirmed that the government still owed N50 billion subsidy areas, as at yesterday.

  The marketers, have however, reiterated their resolve to stop fuel importation, should the government delay further in offsetting subsidy claims for 2013.

 The Ministry of Finance announced on Monday, that it had released N48 billion    as payments to 25 oil marketers to cover verified subsidy claims.

  The ministry, in a statement signed by Special Adviser to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Paul Nwabuikwu, said with the release of the funds, the Federal Government had paid a total of N240.5 billion to fuel marketers in 2013.

  According to the ministry, before the latest payment, a total of N192.50 billion in verified claims had been settled this year.

  Nwabuikwu listed the 25 oil marketing companies to include Aiteo Energy Resources Limited, Ascon Oil Company Limited, Conoil Plc, Dee Jones Petroleum & Gas Limited, Dozzy Oil And Gas Limited, Forte Oil Plc, Fresh Synergy Limited, Gulf Treasures Limited, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited,  IPMAN Investment Limited, Masters Energy Oil and Gas Limited, Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc,  NIPCO Plc, Oando Plc, Rainoil Limited, Sahara Energy Resources Limited, Swift Oil Limited, Techno Oil Limited and Total Nigeria Plc.

  Others are Bovas & Company, Heyden Petroleum, MRS Oil Nigeria Plc, Rahamaniyya Oil And Gas Limited, Obat Oil & Petroleum Limitedand Shorelink Oil and Gas Services Limited.

  But the oil marketers told The Guardian that the said amount claimed to have been paid by the Federal Government, was subsidy arrears for the previous years, saying that the government is yet to make subsidy payment for the first quarter of 2013.

  Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Obafemi Olawore, at a press briefing last week, said the 2013 subsidy claims for major markers stood at about N50 billion, of which only N9.4 billion was paid last month. The amount, according to him, excluded the huge interest payments the marketers still had to pay their respective banks.

  In view of the delay in paying outstanding claims and rising bank interest rates, he said, it had become very difficult for the marketers to continue imports of fuel.

  Details of the subsidy outstanding claims by MOMAN members, revealed that Oando has total outstanding claims of N26.736 billion; MRS, N8.506 billion; Mobil, N8.523 billion; Forte, N7.747 billion; Conoil, N6.357 billion; and Total, N7.221 billion.

 Mobil has not been paid all its outstanding claims for 2011 and 2012 imports, while some of the firm’s outstanding interest payments to banks were yet to be settled.

  Olawore said the delay in payment of 2012 and 2013 subsidy claims had as at June attracted an interest of N13.1 billion.

  The executive secretary noted that the delay in subsidy payments was also causing untold disruption to the operations of major marketers, adding that the volume of products imported by marketers had continued to dwindle.

-------Roseline Okere, Guardian Nigeria, Tuesday July 16, 2013
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