Subsidy: Presidency Stands Firm - "No Marketer Should Be Paid Unless They Are Cleared Of Fraudulent Practices"
More facts have emerged on how the Ministry of Finance resisted pressure from pro-marketers lobbyists who had pushed to get the Federal Government to pay their disputed claims as a way of resolving recent pro-marketers strike action by a section of the labour movement.Information gathered revealed that the lobbyists had infiltrated government and were banking on getting a presidential directive to force the finance minister to reverse the stoppage of their payments, but were shocked when they met brick wall from the Presidency.
Insider sources told media that the marketers had, indeed, secured the backing of strong forces within the government who were said to have attempted to paint the stoppage of payment to the marketers as a unilateral decision of the finance ministry and, therefore, reversible through presidential fiat.
It was, however, learnt that President Jonathan insisted on non-payment of the claims as decided by the presidential task force, with information confirming that the president was furious at attempt to reopen the matter after the marketers had been proved to be guilty of alleged shady deals.
The presidential position was said to have strengthened the minister of finance who was said to have proceeded to release more details about why the marketers were not paid, an action said to have rattled the affected marketers and weakened their labour supporters.
Findings revealed that the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had been facing resistance in her drive to clean up the subsidy fund regime with a lifeline allegedly provided by the president who is said to be urging her to forge ahead.
It was learnt that the in-fighting started the day the coordinating minister announced the formation of the Aig-Imoukhede-led committee to conduct forensic audit of marketers and their claims for subsidy payments with some forces within the administration opposing such moves.
Media gathered that it was the intervention of President Jonathan that made the creation of the committee a reality, while the second phase of the battle started when the report indicting more firms was produced by the committee.
Pro-marketers forces within the administration were said to have kicked against the release of the report, leading to the establishment of fresh presidential task force to check through the report and re-confirm the guilt or otherwise of the indicted marketers.
The task force was said to have returned the ‘guilty’ verdict for most of the marketers with some of them provided the opportunity to re-present their claims followed by a presidential directive that the indicted firms should have their claims for payments withheld.
Findings showed that the split within the establishment over the issue was responsible for the hostage situation the administration found itself on the subsidy payment issue, even as there were allegations that the marketers are getting insider support in their confrontation with the government.
Journalists were however, told that President Jonathan has not withdrawn his political approval for the action of the coordinating minister for the economy as he was said to have ordered, before leaving for Senegal, that no marketer should be paid unless they are cleared of fraudulent practices.