Oil marketers on Thursday warned that Nigeria could witness “the mother of all queues” from next week if the Federal Government fails to pay the 12 months bridging claims being owed operators in the downstream oil sector.
Dealers under the aegis of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, which controls about 70 per cent of filling stations across the country, also denied being paid N74bn by the Federal Government as bridging claims for the transportation of petroleum products.
On Wednesday, the Federal Government through its Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority said it paid N74bn as bridging claims to oil marketers for the transportation of petroleum products across the country in seven months.
It disclosed this while reacting to allegations made by IPMAN, Suleja Branch, that the scarcity of petroleum products in Nigeria was due to the non-payment of bridging claims. “So far, the authority paid N71,233,712,991 bridging claims and another N2,736,179,950.84 freight differentials to marketers as at June 6, 2022,” the NMDPRA had stated in a statement it issued in Abuja.
But in an interview with our correspondent on Thursday, the Secretary, Abuja-Suleja IPMAN, Mohammed Shuaibu, whose unit covers Abuja, Kogi, Niger and parts of Nasarawa and Kaduna, countered the position of the NMDPRA on the payments of bridging claims.
Referring to the Chief Executive of NMDPRA, Farouk Ahmed, the IPMAN official said, “He (Ahmed) alleged he has paid marketers N74bn right? We have accused him of sabotaging our efforts by not paying us our bridging claims and that is the fact. “Since he claims to have paid, we are not arguing but we challenge him to come out and name the marketers that he paid. Let him explain from A to Z. Let him bring out the documents. If you say you have paid our members N74bn, and we say we’ve not been paid, then come out and explain to the public.
“Anyway, by the time we down-tool fully within the next one week, he will explain to the public and the presidency how the situation got to that level, because this one is going to lead to the mother of all queues.”
Shuaibu added, “You are owing a marketer, for example, N30m or N20m, you paid him N150,000 or N200,000 and you now go on air to say you have paid the marketer. Is there any justification to that effect?” He said the indebtedness to marketers was way beyond N50bn, adding that IPMAN had been raising the alarm because many of its members were shutting down operations due to their inability to continue in business.
“By the time we down-tool, it will be massive because the nine depots in the North and other marketers are now itching to come out with their own claims. They are ready to join in solidarity and may be by that time the government will know if we are joking or not,” he stated.
The National President, Natural Oil and Gas Suppliers Association, Bennett Korie, had told our correspondent that the cost of diesel had made it tough for filling stations to operate. This was confirmed on Thursday in Abuja, as many filling stations were shut down due to lack of products, while the few ones that dispensed fuel had severe queues.
Retail outlets such as Gegu Oil, Eterna and Oando located at the Dutse end of the Kubwa-Zuba road were closed, as well as many others in Abuja and its environs on Thursday.
Korie explained that marketers were paid bridging claims because of the long distances which their trucks transport products across, but noted that current high cost of diesel had made things tough. “Now, not just that, the roads are bad and the maintenance of trucks is becoming too high for marketers. If you go round now you will see that 75 per cent of filling stations in Nigeria have gone out of business,” he stated.
He added, “There is no diesel to take fuel to their stations. All of them are going down. And it is not that the fuel is not there, but the cost of bringing it to the stations is too high.” The spokesperson of the NMDPRA, Kimchi Apollo, could not be reached for comments on the matter, but a senior official at the agency told our correspondent that bridging claims were paid by the authority. The official, who pleaded not to be named due to lack of authorisation, said, “We cannot as a government agency release data that does not exist.