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Nigeria minister: Mom's kidnap about fuel payments

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 17, 2012 at 10:35 am •  Published: December 17, 2012

In April, lawmakers studying the program called for $6.7 billion to be refunded by oil marketers and others associated with the subsidy plan, which makes payments to companies for bringing in gasoline and selling it at a below-market price, because Nigeria does refine enough oil to meet demand. The parliamentary report found gasoline importation licenses became a means of patronage, as the number of companies involved jumped from six in 2006 to 140 in 2011. In 2009, when there were 36 companies licensed to import, government officials once issued about $800 million in 128 transactions in a 24-hour period without proper documentation, according to the report.

Companies also won approval without any real oversight. In one case, two businessmen who made a pitch to handle waste management at the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. instead applied to become importers and got a $12.4 million contract in 2011 for fuel they never supplied, according to the report.

In recent months, Okonjo-Iweala has again said the subsidy must be entirely removed because the country cannot afford it. That has led to panic gasoline buying and fuel shortages around the country as importers have held back from bringing it in. Citizens also believe the fuel subsidies represent the only benefit they see from the country's oil production, which has benefited the nation's kleptocratic ruling class for decades, according to many reports.

Speaking Monday, Okonjo-Iweala said her mother's kidnapping would not change the government's stance.

"For marketers whose transactions are proven to be fraudulent, the position of the Jonathan government is also clear: We cannot and we will not pay," she said. "We will not back down on this. We will continue to stand firm."