Reps advise Executive to suspend petrol subsidy withdrawal

2012-01-09
THE NATION Newspaper-Dupe Olaoye-Osinkolu

IN a desperate effort to stabilise the ship of state, the executive was yesterday advised to pull the brakes on the controversial removal of petrol subsidy.

The House of Representatives said the suspension was necessary, in appreciation of the nation’s mood.

The 294 lawmakers also urged the organised Labour and other stakeholders to suspend the strike planned for today for further talks on the matter.

The House set up two Ad-Hoc committees. One, headed by Patrick Ikhariale (PDP, Edo), is to interface with the representatives of the Executive and Labour with a view of finding common ground.

The second, headed by Farouk Lawan (PDP, Kano), is to verify and determine actual subsidy requirement and monitor the subsidy regime.

The decision of the House followed an emergency plenary session convened by to discuss Speaker Aminu Tambuwal subsidy removal and the state of emergency declared in some local governments across the country due to the spate of terrorist activities of Boko Haram. The session also discussed Budget 2012.

Tambuwal said: “These issues have raised serious concerns among the generality of Nigerians but perhaps more so from organised labour. These concerns are not unfounded but we believe the options are not exhausted, if we are not to unwittingly push the country over the edge.”

On the insecurity in the country and the ultimatum given to some people to vacate their residence, the Speaker praised leaders on how they have handled the issues so far.

“I Wish to commend the invaluable sense of maturity, understanding and restraint exhibited by the Christian members of the House in connection with the most unfortunate and unwarranted 25th December 2011 Madala Church bombing and spate of other acts of violence on churches elsewhere in which innocent people lost their lives and limbs.

“By this act of restraint, the objective of these enemies of Nigeria to falsely give religious coloration to the senseless terrorist escapades has been defeated,” the Speaker said adding:

“We, the entire members of the House of Representatives deeply and most sincerely sympathise with the bereaved families and indeed the entire Christian community.”

The Speaker reiterated that the National Assembly and the House of Representatives in particular is committed to upholding the fundamental rights of all Nigerians to live, reside and move freely in all parts of the country without molestation from any quarters.

“In the light of this, we call on all Nigerians wherever they are residing, to resist any intimidation to migrate or flee in apprehension of the scare being created by those agents of meaningless violence and destruction as we shall render all support that the Executive requires to protect the lives and property of all.”

In a hotly debated motion sponsored by Yusuf Tajudeen (PDP, Kogi) and 60 others, the lawmaker noted that while deregulation may not be objectionable, the alternative to proper procedure and good timing of such a policy is not only equally important but indeed imperative, especially in a democratic dispensation.

“One is worried that adequate distinction is not made between the Federal Government’s contribution to the subsidy and the contribution of states and local governments.

“As a result of this distinction, the savings from the subsidy removal by the Executive is less than N500 billion, whereas the loss that would be occasioned by the impending strike would be over N500billion.

“One is also alarmed that a time when Nigerians are mourning the loss of loved ones resulting from acts of terrorism and grappling with serious challenges resulting in the extreme measures of the declaration of state of emergency in parts of the country, the executive had chosen to introduce a policy as highly volatile as the removal of the fuel subsidy.

Tajudeen stressed that the country must first exist harmoniously before it can derive benefits of any public policy, however critically beneficial and well intentioned such a policy might be.

Besides, a democratically elected government cannot abandon dialogue, he said.

According to him, the various revelations on the administration of fuel subsidy funds are amazing. Expenditures are overshot in obvious violation of the Appropriation Act, he said.

In support of the motion, Rafiu Ibrahim (PDP, Kwara) noted that the federal government hinged removal on deregulation but since diesel has been deregulated with no result for the common man, it should be discarded.

“Issue of trust in people in government is crucial here, what you did in the past has no effect, how are we sure this will work. Let us rather encourage the government to reconsider the plight of Nigeria.”

Aliyu Madaki (PDP, Kano) said: “This is a defining moment for the country. The civil war led to migration from all over. It is the same today, the signs are there. As leaders, we should do what is right, the removal is bad policy and economics, there cannot be peace when there is no harmony in the country. Economy cannot be buoyant when there is war. It should be suspended.”

Garba Datti Mohammad (CPC, Kaduna) said the increment amounts to duty that ought to go through the National Assembly. “So, if the subsidy goes, which means the same as duty, it cannot go without recourse to the National Assembly,” he said.

Those against the motion had a tough time making their comments as boos and shouts of ‘nos’ rented the air. Certain lawmakers were not allowed to complete their submission as a result of the overwhelming rejections from their colleagues.

Some asked for protection from the Speaker before they could complete their submission.

Majority of those against the motion spoke with the belief that they needed to be heard and remembered that they were in support of the government’s decision to remove the subsidy now.

When one of the pro-subsidy removal lawmakers, Warman Ogoriba (PDP, Bayelsa) began his argument, he was shouted down. The Speaker intervened just as he was forced to with every one of the pro-subsidy removal supporter.

He said: “We need to be more sober at this session and appreciate the sacrifice all of us have made to be here. Let us please not distract any speaker recognised; let us listen and when it is time to vote, we express our decision”.

Ogoriba went on: “Having studied the mood of the House and know the direction of the House but I need to speak and be heard. No right thinking President will want to visit hardship on those that voted for him. The President loves the country, came out and said if not removed, the country would collapse. All arguments are not against removal; rather, they are saying it is not yet the time. (Shouts of nos)

Other lawmakers who defended subsidy removal include House Leader Mulikat Akande-Adeola (PDP, Oyo), Nado Karibo (PDP, Bayelsa), Yakubu Barde (PDP, Kaduna), Arua Arunsi (PDP, Abia), Seriake Dickson (PDP, Bayelsa), Sekonte Davies (PDP, Rivers), Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta), Andrew Uchendu (PDP, Rivers), Ini Udoka (PDP, Akwa Ibom), Asita Honourable (PDP, Rivers) Mohammed Ibrahim Idris (PDP, Kogi), Joseph Akinlaja (LP, Ondo) and Friday Itulah (PDP, Edo)

The motion was overwhelmingly adopted. The ad-hoc committees are to meet with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Minister of Labour and other stakeholders tomorrow.



 

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