By Chika Amanze-Nwachuku, 10.18.2007
The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) may invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to assist them in the recovery of over N8 billion bridging fund contribution owed by petroleum marketers.
The debt, according to the bodies is in relation to the imported Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) otherwise known as diesel in the last four years.
The bridging fund is part of the cost elements of petroleum products and is remitted to the PEF for the reimbursement of marketers who transport products from the coastal areas to the hinterland.
THISDAY learnt that the decision to invite the EFCC was taken at a meeting yesterday in Abuja between the Executive Secretaries of the PPPRA, Dr. Oluwole Oluleye and that of the PEF, Mrs. Sharon Adefunke Kasali.
At the meeting said to be at the instance of the PEF, the parties were said to have fashioned out the ways and means of enforcing remittance of the bridging fund by about 40 defaulting marketers.
Specifically, the parties resolved to employ the services of relevant government agencies such as the EFCC, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in recovering the fund.
According to sources, the decision to involve the relevant bodies became imperative as the PEF was said to be finding it difficult to settle the claims of marketers who are involved in bridging products, a situation that is threatening the sustenance of products availability to all parts of the country.
More so, the stability of diesel distribution nationwide is crucial since haulage trucks that move petroleum products use diesel.
Oluleye was said to have at the said meeting, reiterated that the N2 per litre bridging fund contribution on petrol and kerosene also applied to diesel which in effect meant that marketers were expected to add it when fixing cost and then remit to the PEF.
He argued that the fact that diesel was deregulated did not give marketers the licence to sell the product at exorbitant rates, adding that the essence of the PPPRA approved benchmark prices of the products was to give an indication of the price band within which marketers could operate.
Meanwhile, THISDAY learnt that Zenon Petroleum and Gas, one of the affected marketers, has redeemed its own obligation to the PEF by paying the money, while most of the marketers are still in default.
THISDAY checks also revealed that a comprehensive list of about 40 defaulting importers is being compiled for publication in the national dailies, after which the list will be forwarded to the EFCC, CBN, DPR and the NNPC for necessary action. When contacted, the Executive Secretary of Major Oil Marketers Association, Mr. Femi Olawore, said he was not aware of any such meeting.
He said it would be unfair for the two agencies to go ahead with such meeting without informing him as a board member of both agencies.
Pointing out that the PEF in the past owed the major marketers to the tune of about N22 billion being part of the Petroleum Support Fund, Olawore said his members would meet with the PEF soon to reconcile whatever amount each party owed.
“I am trying to reach the PEF so that we can sit down with them and reconcile whatever is being owed by a party. We run three schemes with the PEF -- bridging fund, zonal equalization and inter-districting -- and we come together on quarterly basis to exchange cheques. Sometimes we owe them, and at other times they owe us. Sometime ago, the PEF owed us about N22 billion which was Petroleum Support Fund (PSF). We did not call the EFCC. So it will be unfair for them to have the meeting without informing us. The issue of EFCC does not arise at all,” he said.
An independent marketer who craved anonymity also denied knowledge of the meeting, but added that the marketers would pay even without EFCC’s intervention.