Some Oil Marketing and Trading (OM &T) companies have accused the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) of operating a regime of secrecy in the quarterly allocations given to marketers to import petrol and appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the agency over allegation of corruption in the fourth quarter 2015 allocations.
The marketers noted that since Buhari assumed office, he has instituted series of reforms to enthrone a regime of transparency in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) but has allowed the PPPRA to rot in the old regime of secrecy and corruption.
The Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of some of the companies alleged that the PPPRA issued import allocations to marketing companies that did not import products in the third quarter and other previous quarters, while prominent companies that performed satisfactorily in the third quarter were denied allocations in the fourth quarter by the agency.
The CEOs, revealed that condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised by the PPPRA, challenged the Executive Secretary of PPPRA, Mr. Farouk Ahmed to tell Nigerians the criteria used in giving marketers import allocations in the fourth quarter and to also publish the list of beneficiaries and volume allocated to each beneficiary.
According to them, the regime of secrecy operated by Ahmed in PPPRA is not in line with President Buhari’s regime of transparency and zero tolerance for corruption.
While the spokesman of the PPPRA, Mr. Lanre Oladele did not respond to calls throughout the weekend to react to these allegations, a top official of the agency disclosed that the list of the beneficiaries was published in Federal Government gazette.
The official, who said he was not competent or authorised to speak officially on the allegations, however accused the Nigerian media of arrogance for insisting that only information published in the media are deemed to have been made public.
“Have you checked government gazette? It is published in the government gazette. My problem with Nigerian media is that you assume that anything that is not published in the print media has not been made public. I see that as sign of arrogance. If any marketer was not prequalified in the fourth quarter, there must be a reason for that,” he said.
But one of the CEOs said the fourth quarter allocation was characterised by corruption as marketers, who did not deserve allocations based on their previous poor performances were allegedly given allocations while those who performed well in the previous quarter were denied pre-qualifications.
He challenged the agency to make public the list of the beneficiaries and also tell Nigerians the criteria used to select the marketers since subsidy claims are paid with tax payers’ money.
“Why is it necessary to keep import allocations secret? It is because of entrenched corruption in the system. That is why they don’t publish the list so that Nigerians will not know who gets what. They must publish the list of fourth quarter and the basis upon which marketers were given allocations. Is it the size of their tank farms or their performance in the third quarter because that is the criteria,” he said.
Another CEO accused Ahmed of trying to kill their businesses by denying them quarterly allocation, thus making it impossible for them to earn any income for the next three months.
“I must pay salaries for three months; I must pay rent for three months; I must pay all my fixed costs, yet I have no earnings. I don’t know if there is anyway anybody can rationalise where a government official can have that right effectively to ruin our businesses,” he said.
“It is a great embarrassment for me. Apart from the fact that we have nothing to sell, it also sends negative signals to our bankers. Our bankers are now asking us how we are going to pay the debt we owe if we don’t have anything to sell. Farouk’s attitude to us can precipitate a distress in the system. President Buhari is encouraging investment to create employment but PPPRA want to kill our businesses. Marketers who did not import products in the past because of unpaid subsidy claims were suddenly given allocations while those of us who kept faith with the system and have been importing were denied allocations. We smell a rat and the President should probe PPPRA to clean up this mess,” he explained.