Senators, House Yet To Give Consent To Fuel Subsidy Removal

Senators, reps yet to give consent

Oct 15, 2011 – Senators, House Yet To Give Consent To Fuel Subsidy Removal – Indications emerged yesterday that despite pressure, the Senate and the House of Representatives have not made any commitment to the Presidency on whether to support the withdrawal of fuel subsidy or not.

Also, the two chambers are weighing options on likely gradual withdrawal of fuel subsidy to monitor how the cushioning effects will work before backing the policy wholesale.

But the withdrawal may take effect from January 2012, going by the thinking in government circle.
The government says it has spent about N1.2 trillion on fuel subsidy this year, which President Goodluck Jonathan said is no longer sustainable.

Attempts were made by the Presidency on Monday to present indices to the National Assembly on why fuel subsidy must go.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Alhaji Zakari Mohammed, said: “We are yet to give any commitment because whatever you must sell to the people, you must believe in it. Most members do not yet believe in the withdrawal of subsidy.

“Our position was informed by two things. We know that the withdrawal of subsidy will be harsh to people. Secondly, we have not seen the justification for it. Members are saying that we should get our refineries working before competition comes in.’’

Asked how soon the National Assembly will make up its mind, Mohammed added: “Officially, the issue of  withdrawal of subsidy is before the Senate and it is receiving attention.

“We believe that any issue that comes up like that in the Senate, we should not discuss it in the House of Representatives. We are waiting for the Senate on what it will do before making our opinion known.
“Most members are eager to discuss the subsidy issue. After consideration of all factors, we will then announce our position.”

A senator, who spoke in confidence,  correborated the position of Mohammed. He said: “At  a session we had with the President at the Villa, the Minister of Finance presented an Economic Blueprint but we observed a lot of gaps, especially on issues relating to withdrawal of oil subsidy.
“We have not given any pledge because we are still weighing options, especially the backlash of the economic implications on the survival of our democracy.

“You cannot run democracy on empty stomach and under harsh socio-economic conditions. The government wanted commitment from the National Assembly leadership but we refused to make an on-the-spot pledge.

“We isolated three issues to be addressed by the government: identification of leakages of oil revenue; Action Plan on how to break the cartel benefiting from subsidy; and clear cut projects which they will spend the withdrawn subsidy on.

“So far, I can tell you that we are weighing options. But from our consultations so far, most members of the National Assembly prefer a systematic or gradual withdrawal of subsidy.

“They said they want the cushioning effects put in place to work before fully backing total withdrawal of subsidy.
“We learnt that the exit date for the subsidy is January 2012. So, we are hopeful that we would have chosen our options on the withdrawal policy.” (The Nation)