The controversy on the removal of fuel subsidy has continued unabated as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has revealed that the Federal Government has postponed the take-off of the policy till further notice.
Ahmed attributed the postponement of the implementation of the policy to bad timing due to heightened inflation, the need for rollout of existing refineries and new ones, to reduce the volume of products imported into the country, further consultations with stakeholders, among others. This was disclosed by Ahmed on Monday at a meeting convened by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, at the National Assembly in Abuja.
At the meeting which also had in attendance the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva and the Group Managing Director of the NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari, among others, Ahmed said the Federal Government initially had the plans to remove subsidy on petroleum products from July this year.
What the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning is saying
Ahmed said the federal government made adequate provision in the 2022 national budget for subsidy payment till June and as such concluded plans to remove fuel subsidy from July 2022. The Minister said, “Provision was made in the 2022 budget for subsidy payment from January till June. That suggested that from July, there would be no subsidy.
“The provision was made sequel to the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act which indicated that all petroleum products would be deregulated. Sequel to the passage of the PIA, we went back to amend the fiscal framework to incorporate the subsidy removal. However, after the budget was passed, we had consultations with a number of stakeholders and it became clear that the timing was problematic. We discovered that practically, there is still heightened inflation and that the removal of subsidy would further worsen the situation and impose more difficulties on the citizenry”.
“Mr President (Muhammadu Buhari), does not want to do that. What we are now doing is to continue with the ongoing discussions and consultations in terms of putting in place a number of measures. One of these include the roll-out of the refining capacities of the existing refineries and the new ones which would reduce the amount of products that would be imported into the country”.
“We, therefore, need to return to the National Assembly to now amend the budget and make additional provision for subsidy from July 22 to whatever period that we agreed was suitable for the commencement of the total removal.’’ The Senate President, therefore, appealed to the organised labour unions in the country to shelve their planned nationwide protests as it was no longer necessary.
What you should know
Recall that the fuel subsidy removal debate was once again brought to the fore when the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, said that President Muhammadu Buhari assured him that he had not directed anyone to remove fuel subsidy. Lawan also questioned claims that Nigeria consumes 100 million litres of petrol daily, attributing such a level of consumption to smuggling activities.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had in October 2021, disclosed that the 2022 budget would make provision for petrol subsidy for the first 6 months alone, after which it is expected that the sector would have been completely deregulated.