World Bulletin/News Desk
Nigeria's finance ministry said on Friday it would not pay subsidies to fuel importers it was investigating for fraud, listing 21 local firms and pledging not to back down despite union strike threats.
A presidential committee, led by Access Bank chief Aigboje Aig Imoukhuede, is verifying all fuel marketers' claims before the finance ministry pays them any subsidy, it said.
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.
A parliamentary probe in April uncovered a $6.8 billion scam in the fuel subsidy administration, one of the biggest corruption scandals in Nigeria's history.
It found that marketers were claiming subsidy for fuel they never delivered or that they sold to the country's neighbouring states.
Unions, which are largely controlled by the companies, threatened to strike unless payments were released.
There were fuel shortages in the capital Abuja this week, as some marketers withheld deliveries, and Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala condemned what she called "blackmail" in a news conference on Thursday.
"It is clear that those behind the strikes are marketers being investigated for possible fraud," a finance ministry statement said on Friday.
"These elements have now resorted to hiding behind the unions to unnecessarily antagonize government and create hardship for Nigerians ... No degree of blackmail will stop the government from doing its work."
Another investigation by a committee President Goodluck Jonathan set up found that fuel traders fraudulently collected 382 billion naira ($2.38 billion) last year in subsidy payments.
In January Jonathan tried to end the fuel subsidy, which economists say is wasteful and corrupt, but a week of strikes and protests over petrol prices forced him to partly reinstate it.
Russia's oil output stands at over 10 million barrels per day, the world's largest, but it needs new sources of crude oil, including hard-to-recover deposits and the Arctic, to sustain this level
The strike at Yue Yuen is not just one of China's biggest in recent years, it's also more clearly driven by workers' fears that they have been scammed by an opaque and convoluted welfare payment system.
When the system is in place citizens will be able to buy a limited amount of subsidised fuel, and will have to pay a normal, market price for any extra quantities.
Production in Upper Nile state's Paloch oilfields, where output has not been hampered by the conflict, stood at 159,000 barrels per day this week.
Dragomir Stoynev accused fellow European Union members of a politically-motivated attempt to scupper the project, and urged the bloc to understand the effect that doing so would have on its members.
The drops have come mainly because Japan did not take any cargoes in March and South Korea is not scheduled to take any shipments in April, according to the tanker data.
Japan's finance ministry and central bank have declined to comment on the payments.
But a survey shows that most people believe inflation is speeding up and could surpass 37 percent this year.
A fifth payment of $450 million was due on April 15, contingent on Iran having diluted half of its most sensitive stockpile of nuclear materials
The year-on-year inflation rate in the 18 countries sharing the euro was 0.5 percent in March against 0.7 percent in February, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said.
Pushed by higher food and shelter costs, the consumer price index rose in March.
Country of origin labels are currently voluntary in the European Union and many of the bloc's governments want to keep it that way
While reverse flows would help cushion the effects of a Russian export cut during mild-demand summer months, analysts say they would not be sufficient in winter.
The tanker, Aegean Dignity, is due to take its load to Italy, the NOC quoted an oil official as saying in a statement on its website
TAP aims at enhancing the security of natural gas supply as well as diversification of gas supplies for the European markets.