Senators across political party lines have said the National Assembly would not pass the proposal on petrol subsidy removal as presented by President Muhammadu Buhari in order not to create crisis for the new administration that would succeed him next year.
Buhari had in the 2023 – 2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP), proposed N3.6 trillion in the 2023 Budget for fuel subsidy, which was from January to June.
The Joint Senate Committee on Finance and Economic Planning which worked on the document had while submitting it’s report last week at plenary, slashed the N3.6 trillion subsidy provision to N1.7 trillion in order to reduce the fiscal deficit of N11.3 trillion contained in the MTEF/FSP.
The proposal of the Senate panel on subsidy was however rejected at plenary but the House of Representatives okayed its Committee’s recommendation which was N1.7 trillion.
Buhari, in the 2023 fiscal document he presented before the joint sitting of the two chambers of the National Assembly last Friday, had proposed that the subsidy regime would terminate with his administration on May 29, 2023.
However, some senators who spoke with journalists on the issue vowed to extend the terminal date for the subsidy removal to the end of 2023.
They argued that stopping the subsidy regime at the time a new administration would be taking over power, would create a lot of crisis.
The senators pledged to rework the fiscal document to make sure that the terminal date for the discontinuation of subsidy payment was shifted to December 2023.
A Principal Officer of the upper chamber representing Enugu North Senatorial District, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, said his colleagues would not allow the subsidy regime to end midway next year.
He said, “The executive had proposed that the oil subsidy would end at the end of May next year.
“For us in the Senate, while passing the MTEF/FSP, we handled the issue and in our own wisdom and said it was not feasible.
“We argued that it is better to make it one year. We have said it will end in December next year.
“This is because we don’t want it to create a problem for the government that would succeed President Buhari.
“We don’t want Nigerians to start attacking the new government from day one.
“It is therefore better to sustain it till December next year. The budget is now in the National Assembly, we have the powers and we have taken that decision in the MTEF/ FSP. “
Utazi noted that the effective implementation of the 2023 appropriation bill would be determined by the way the government would tackle oil theft in the Niger Delta.
Similarly, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Barau Jibrin, said Buhari had proposed that the subsidy regime would end in June, but that the Senate would revisit the issue.
He said, the president submitted two scenarios. The first was to provide money to make it end June next year.
“The second scenario is for it to end in December but there won’t be any money to fund capital projects. By what was submitted on Friday, it is intended that it would end in June next year.
“As a parliament, we have the power of appropriation.”
Jibrin commended the Buhari’s government for improving on the nation’s infrastructure development.
He said, “I was once Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation. Even when I left office, I was following what was happening in the appropriation process.
“This is the first government since 1999 that has invested so much in infrastructure.
“The government has done very well. It has performed in a manner that deserves commendation.
“There must be an enabling environment in place if a country wants to achieve economic growth and buoyancy. Infrastructure development is very important in the life of an administration. It is one of the fundamentals needed to achieve growth.
Also, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Senator Betty Apiafi, assured Nigerians that the nation’s parliament would do the needful on the subsidy issue.
Apiafi said, “Revenue is dropping because almost 80 percent of our revenue is being stolen. From the MTEF/FSP record we are losing one million barrels of crude oil per day.
“Two scenarios had been presented. First, if we provide 100 per cent subsidy for petrol next year, there won’t be any capital project. But if we do subsidy for six months, then there will be money for capital project.
“Nobody does projects in one part within a year. Nigerians voted for us to protect the nation and make it prosper but what are we doing by allowing our revenue to be stolen?”