Senate urges FG to pay oil marketers’ arrears to avert strike

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…As SON set to partners freight forwarders to curb substandard imports***

Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Sen. Kabiru Marafa, Thursday, called on the Federal Government to pay outstanding fuel subsidy arrears to oil marketers, to avert strike and the usual End-of Year fuel scarcity.

Sen. Kabiru Marafa made the call following a motion moved he moved, at plenary on Thursday.

Marafa, while presenting the motion, said there was an urgent need to avert the looming strike due to non-payment of accrued subsidy arrears, to the oil marketers; recalling that the major petroleum marketers had on November 30, threatened to go on nationwide strike, if government failed to pay the money owed them.

The marketers include- Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association and Independent Petroleum Products Importers.

They gave the federal government seven days ultimatum, saying they would cease operations and withdraw their employees from all depots across the country at the expiration of the ultimatum.

Marafa further noted that if not averted, the strike may lead to artificial fuel scarcity, which may span through the election period.

“The National Assembly had processed and passed the President’s request on July 18 and July 24 and it was forwarded to the Ministry of Finance for payment.

“After the passage of the executive request, the Debt Management Office (DMO) introduced very stringent measures for the issuance of the promissory note.

“They included a document review, by an international accounting firm.

“However, marketers objected to the processes and reacted by issuing a seven-day ultimatum from Tuesday Nov. 27, to DMO to pay,’’ he said.

Marafa added: “They equally asked the DMO to adhere to the agreement reached at a meeting, with the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in June, 2017.

“It is worrisome that the continuous delay in the payment of the arrears, has increased the debt from N429 billion, to close to N1trillion, between June 2017, to date.

“If not settled now, it will continue to increase, due to bank interest charges and forex.”

He prayed the senate to urge the federal government to urgently direct all concerned agencies, to immediately pay the subsidy arrears as approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

Contributing, the Leader of the Senate, Sen. Ahmad Lawan, who blamed the situation on previous government, alleged that those who are laying claim to the subsidy, were allies of the previous government.

However, Sen. Ibrahim Danbaba (PDP-Sokoto) alleged that those within the present government are the ones sabotaging the process, adding that the matter had gone beyond National Assembly’s input.

In his remarks, the Deputy President of the Senate, Mr Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary, urged the federal government to engage the marketers.

Meanwhile, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) on Thursday in Lagos said it was aligning with freight forwarders to check importation of substandard goods.

It said it organised the one-day sensitisation workshop with the theme “Collaboration as a Tool for Zero Substandard Import”, for Maritime stakeholders to enlist the assistance of the maritime operators in the fight against substandard goods.

The Director-General (DG) of SON, Mr Osita Aboloma, described freight forwarders as critical in the organisation’s quest for standardisation.

The DG, represented by Mr Mohammed kabiru, a Director in the DG’s office, said the roles of the stakeholders in the maritime sector could not be over emphasized as the link or intermediaries between the importers and the regulator.

“We therefore look forward to a more robust and lasting collaboration that will continuously create the much-desired awareness in the activities and import requirements of SON.

“Imports collaboration is the key to success since SON cannot achieve the goal of zero importation of substandard products alone.

“I therefore implore you to join us to sensitise and educate all importers and the public on the importance of quality goods and products as well as the dangers associated with substandard and life-endangering products.

“The works of standardization, quality assurance as well as campaign against the menace of substandard products remains a collaborative and partnership endeavour among SON and its stakeholders.

“That over 80 per cent of products that enter into Nigeria daily are via the Nation’s seaports and waterways. It is therefore critical to collaborate with the Maritime Sector operators.”

Dr Boniface Aniebonam, the Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) who spoke on behalf of the practitioners,  said that there was need for the freight forwarders to educate their importers; and pledged that the message would be put to practice in order to curb importation of substandard goods in the Nigerian market.