By Bassey Udo
The reimbursement of fuel marketers’ transportation differentials for petroleum products bridging is a priority to the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), the industry regulator said on Thursday.
The agency was reacting to media reports by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) accusing the Federal Government of owing its members over N500 billion in outstanding bridging claims.
Bridging claims are payments the petroleum products marketers are entitled to from the Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF) for conveying fuel from designated fuel depots to retail outlets across the country to ensure consumers nationwide enjoy the same price.
The Chairman of IPMAN in Kano State, Bashir Danmalam, who made the claim while speaking with reporters on Monday in Kano threatened to mobilise its members to trigger a nationwide fuel crisis of monumental proportions never seen in the country if the outstanding claims said to have remained for over nine months were not settled.
Danmalam blamed the NMDPRA for the delay in settling the claims, saying this has posed serious challenges to fuel marketers despite their determination to maintain stability in the supply of petroleum products in the country.
But, the NMDPRA, in statement sent to MEDIATRACNET on Thursday rejected the blame by the fuel marketers’ association, accusing some of its members of not cooperating with it, by refusing to come forward to reconcile their claims.
The agency however reassured marketers that it remained committed to honour and process legitimate and verified bridging claims, to ensure product availability nationwide.
The NMDPRA reads:
“The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) has taken note of concerns raised by some Oil Marketers over their outstanding bridging claims.
“The administration of bridging payment is a continuous process, as hundreds of trucks load and discharge products daily, thereby adding to the claims.
“Since December 2021, the NMDPRA has made several payments to marketers whose claims have been verified. So far, over N58 billion has been disbursed to oil marketers, out of which about N34 billion went directly to members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN).
“We wish to stress that the total amount disbursed so far is the highest ever paid within a six-months span by previous fund administrators, which implies that the reimbursement of marketer’s transportation differentials for petroleum products movement from depots to sales outlets is a priority to the NMDPRA.
“In addition, Freight Rates were recently reviewed upwards to reflect current market realities and stimulate investments in the transportation of petroleum products in the country to ensure uninterrupted distribution.
“It is pertinent to note that some of the pending payments is due to the reluctance of marketers to reconcile their claims, in spite of the Authority’s continuous appeal to them to come for reconciliation whenever there are discrepancies,” the agency said.
In an apparent reaction to the threat by the marketers to instigate a nationwide fuel crisis over the issue, the NMDPRA gave the assurance that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited has sufficient stock of premium motor spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol, to last for over 47 days.
The agency said the stock of petrol in the NNPC system translates to about 2.65 billion litres, which did not call for panic buying by consumers, as was currently the situation in Abuja and environs.
The agency said the panic buying being experienced in some parts of the country would soon stabilise and normalcy restored.
To address the situation, the Midstream-Downstream industry regulator said some loading fuel depots have been directed to operate on extended hours to enable increased truck-out of petroleum products.
Meanwhile, the NMDPRA said the vessel discharge operations have been reviewed to fast-track truck loading and distribution of petroleum products in order to meet increased demand.