N200bn debt: IPMAN threatens closure of 30,000 filling stations

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Oil dealers under the aegis of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, on Tuesday, declared that it would shut down the 30,000 stations operated by IPMAN members across the country if the Federal Government fails to pay the N200bn it owes marketers.

IPMAN specifically said the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, an agency of the Federal Government, had refused to clear the debt, which had continued to accrue since September 2022.

It disclosed this in a communiqué issued in Abuja by the Chairman of IPMAN Depot Chairmen Forum, Yahaya Alhassan, over the non-payment of marketers’ bridging claims. IPMAN controls over 30,000 filling stations in Nigeria.

Bridging claims are payments made by the government to oil marketers for the transportation of petroleum products loaded from depots to various states across the country.

Alhassan said the consequences of the failure by NMDPRA to pay the N200bn “will be terrible, as every marketer’s outlet across Nigeria, from the North to the South, and from the East to the West, will be shut down.”

He added, “As IPMAN, we have taken every step in the past to salvage this unfortunate and looming situation, which we know will not augur well for Nigerians, but we are presently left with no option than to go all out in the next few days to address this ugly trend in our way, which will portend great hardship and danger for Nigerians.”

The IPMAN official pointed out that at a stakeholders meeting held on February 20, 2024, with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Heineken Lokpobiri, and the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, the Chief Executive of NMDPRA, Farouk Ahmed, was mandated by Lokpobiri to clear the entire debt in 40 days.

“However, today we have crossed the 40 days time-lapse given to the NMDPRA to clear the debt, and it is shameful to state that only the paltry sum of N13bn has been paid, thus going the whole length to ignore our plight without remorse and recourse to the minister’s directive.

“Before now, we had taken the honourable path to continually seek an explanation from the NMDPRA on why it has blatantly refused to offset the remaining debt, but we have ceaselessly met brick walls,” Alhassan stated.

He said IPMAN was extremely distressed and depressed by the laidback attitude of the leadership of NMDPRA towards the survival of its members’ businesses, arising from NMDPRA’s deliberate delay and refusal to offset the debt of over N200bn.

“This has consequently led to the deaths of many of our members and the unfortunate collapse of their businesses. It is also disheartening to note that some of our members have completely shut down their businesses and retrenched their employees as we are no longer able to pay salaries.

“As businessmen and women, our members acquired bank loans to keep their fuel retail outlets running on a daily basis across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, to serve the teeming population of Nigerians.

“However, it is demoralising to know that many of our members have gone bankrupt and have become financially insolvent as a result of their inability to meet their financial obligations to their banks, arising wholly from their inability to get their monies from the NMDPRA,” Alhassan stated.

Consequently, according to the IPMAN official, the banks have taken over the business premises of many of our members.

He said, “NMDPRA have illegally taken our monies and this is the highest level of fraud. Sequel to this, we are appealing to Mr President to please intervene in this quagmire that we have been subjected to by the NMDPRA.

“We repeat, if our demands are not met within the shortest period, we have already put our members on standby across the nation, as law-abiding citizens, we are collectively prepared to withdraw our services, close every single outlet, and suspend lifting of products forthwith till our demands are fully met.”

When contacted, the NMDPRA said the payment process was ongoing. “Not everyone is paid at the same time, rather the payment process is an ongoing thing,” a spokesperson for the agency, Seiyefa Osanebi stated.

Meanwhile, commenting on the scarcity of fuel across the country, Alhassan said the problem was because the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited was not supplying enough petrol to dealers.

“It is expedient for us to state that we are more pained by the non-availability of petroleum products across the country, which has given rise to another round of untold hardship for Nigerians.

  • •*“We would like to categorically state that the scarcity of PMS is wholly triggered by the NNPC and not by IPMAN or its members. Contrary to claims that IPMAN members are hoarding PMS products, we make bold to say that NNPC is the sole importer of PMS and therefore the sole cause of the present scarcity in Nigeria,” he stated.

IPMAN also stated that NNPC was supplying petrol to private depots, adding that these depots raise the cost of the commodity to as high as N850/litre, which often leads to higher pump prices nationwide.

NNPC, however, assured Nigerians that the ongoing fuel scarcity and queues would be cleared out by Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Its Chief Communications Officer, Olufemi Soneye, reportedly stated this on Tuesday in Lagos.

He said the company currently has availability of products exceeding 1.5 billion litres, which can last for at least 30 days and blamed problems of logistics for the scarcity of petrol nationwide.

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