ABUJA – Nigeria’s finance ministry said on Friday it would pay valid subsidies to fuel traders and urged unions not to strike over outstanding payments to ensure motor fuel supplies were not disrupted.
Two fuel import unions have threatened to strike this week over unpaid subsidies, risking fuel shortages in Africa’s most populous nation.
“The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has directed the Debt Management Office to pay marketers with verified claims as soon as supporting Sovereign Debt Notes are provided,” an emailed statement from the finance ministry said on Friday.
Nigeria’s state-oil company said on Wednesday it was owed $7 billion in government fuel import subsidies and other fuel traders have complained they have outstanding debts.
The statement said the finance ministry paid 17 billion naira in subsidies in June.
The finance ministry has said previously that some subsidy payments have been held up while investigations into fuel traders over potential fraud are ongoing.
A Nigerian presidential committee said on Tuesday that fuel traders owed Nigeria a combined 382 billion naira in fraudulent subsidies collected last year.
“It is clear that some marketers also owe government significant sums of money and that government expects that these will be paid,” the finance ministry said in its statement.
Nigeria is among the top 10 crude oil exporters in the world but due to decades of under-investment and mismanagement it has to import most of its refined fuel needs.