VENTURES AFRICA – The Federal government of Nigeria is set to resume the payment of fuel subsidy claims to fuel marketers, which was previously suspended as a result of measures put in place to ascertain the validity of claims, and ensure payments are made only for genuine deliveries.
According to the Nigeria’s finance minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the scrutiny that has held up payments was geared towards combating fraud and other corrupt practices.
Explaining further, the minister said that the reduction in the pace of subsidy payment was to enable appropriate checks that would ensure that scams running into several billions of dollars are not allowed to be perpetrated by oil marketers who are suspected of defrauding the system.
The impact of the suspension is hard felt by fuel shippers some of whom are encountering longer delays at ports as relevant authorities and bodies scrutinize their subsidy payments, while others had stopped importing but are relying on swaps for crude oil in order to receive payments.
While announcing the ministry’s readiness to resume payment of claims, the Minister of State for Finance, Hajia Yerima Ngama told reporters at the presidential villa that the federal ministry only followed the recommendation of the committee that was set up by the House of Representatives to verify and reconcile the claims.
“I want marketers to know that claims have now been processed and payment to be made subsequently”, she added.
It would be recalled that committee’s report indicted several oil marketers in frauds that had cost the nation about $6.8 billion in three years, which is one of the nation’s biggest corruption scandals.
The revelations however attained a new dimension when the committee that presented the report was accused of asking for and collecting bribes from a fuel marketer to withdraw his company’s name from the list of indicted oil companies.
The minister of state also revealed that Africa’s second largest economy has only 370 billion naira ($2.4 billion) left for subsidy payments in 2012, thus suggesting the inability of the ministry to keep subsidizing fuel without borrowing.
This position was corroborated by the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido who stated that the subsidy will run out well before the year ends.
Nigeria is Africa’s second largest economy, with the recent census putting the nation’s population at 150 million, which makes it the largest black nation in the world.
The giant of Africa is also one of the leading oil producing nations in world, with an estimated production output of 2.6 million barrels per day. However, the country’s overreliance on oil exports has hindered the much acclaimed potential of its economy.