The ECA, where the government saves oil revenues over a benchmark price of $72 a barrel, held $6.9bn on July 19, not enough to pay NNPC’s subsidy claims, let alone a string of other fuel importers’ debts.
The Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, said on Tuesday that risks to the Nigerian economy from high government spending, worsening security problems and lower oil output were “ominous.”
“As at the end of May 2012, NNPC had unpaid (subsidy) claims of N1.134tn,” spokesman for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Fidel Pepple, was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Two fuel import unions have threatened to go on strike this week over unpaid subsidies, risking fuel shortages in the country. This issue had prompted public protests in the past.
People are already queuing for hours to get petrol at inflated prices in some areas in the oil-producing Niger Delta.
Nigeria is among the top 10 crude oil exporters in the world but due to decades of corruption and mismanagement it has to import most of its refined fuel needs, the report said.
NNPC said it had 46 days of fuel supplies and it would do its best to meet demand despite “limited resources.”
“Yes, we are concerned about the shortages but just to put it on record, NNPC has been the only organisation importing products since January when the fuel subsidy issue began,” Pepple said.
The finance ministry declined to comment on the missed subsidy payments but had previously said it was waiting for the results of probes into fuel importers before resuming payments.
Several investigations into the import subsidy were launched after President Goodluck Jonathan attempted to remove the support on January 1, before partially reinstating it after more than a week of protests over increased motor fuel costs.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Wednesday charged 12 fuel traders over allegations they illegally collected a combined N11bn in subsidy payments for fuel they never delivered.
The 12 individuals from seven companies charged are all from low-level Nigerian firms, although the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said more than 100 other marketers were being investigated.
The presidential committee said on Tuesday that fuel traders collected $2.38bn last year in fraudulent subsidy payments.
Meanwhile, members of the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association have requested the Federal Government to pay the subsidy arrears it owes them to the banks they are indebted to.
They said paying the banks directly would help to check interest rate and exchange rate differentials that were accumulating on the debts.
The President, DAPPMA, Chief Dapo Abiodun, who spoke to our correspondent on Wednesday, said most oil marketers had limited or no ‘credit line’ left to raise capital.
He said, “The Federal Government can pay our banks directly. The situation is getting worse. Even our foreign bankers don’t have confidence in us anymore.”
He also said that the association was ready for the strike starting from midnight of Thursday.
Another executive of the association, Mr. Sampson Ogah, said interest rates were fast multiplying on the debt they owed banks; and in the interest of everyone, government should intervene.
According to him, the debts are fast becoming unbearable.
DAPPMA had said it would be joining in the strike started by the Jetty and Petroleum Tank Farm Owners of Nigeria if Federal Government did not settle arrears on subsidy payments, among other issues by Thursday.
Thirty additional oil marketers, who are members of DAPPMA, would join the strike.
Members of JEPTFON had, on Monday, embarked on an indefinite strike over unpaid subsidy payments. The union had shut down jetties and depots of its members.