Following ongoing investigations into the management of fuel subsidy, the Federal Government has now removed 98 companies from the list of importers of the product into the country.
A total of 140 companies were discovered by the House of Representatives to have imported petrol in 2011, for which more than N1.7tn had been paid as subsidy claims.
The Federal Government’s action implies that only 42 companies will benefit from the N656bn provided in the 2012 budget for subsidy payment.
The spokesman of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, Dr. Wole Adamolekun, confirmed the removal of the fuel importers from the 2012 operations in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja.
He, however, said PPPRA had only 125 fuel importers on its list before the government’s action.
The House of Representatives’ Ad-hoc Committee on the Subsidy Regime led by Mr. Farouk Lawan, had discovered that 49 companies imported fuel in the first quarter of 2011, but the number dramatically increased to 140 at the end of the year.
“As far back as December 2011, we had on our own reduced the number of importers from 125 to 42,” Adamolekun, however, explained.
He said the new PPPRA management led by the Executive Secretary, Mr. Reginald Stanley, did so without any prompting from outside.
Despite the reduction of the number of importers, Adamolekun said the only way to sanitise the oil industry was through the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill into law by the National Assembly.
He decried the fact that many oil firms in the upstream sub-sector had refineries in other parts of the world, but had not considered it necessary to establish any in Nigeria.
The PPPRA, however, could neither oblige THE PUNCH’s request for the names of the 42 companies, nor disclose the criteria used to trim the number of importers.
However, it insisted that ownership of retail outlets and storage facilities were conditions that must be met before an importer could be granted a licence.
But the House of Representatives’ panel discovered that many firms did not meet this requirement.
Stanley had said during the demonstration that followed the withdrawal of subsidy by the Federal Government, “There will be a final appraisal of quarter four on the March 31, 2012 and companies that did not perform up to expectation will not only be sanctioned, but will be dropped in subsequent quarters.”