Oil marketers on Wednesday said the N161bn supplementary request by President Goodluck Jonathan had vindicated their insistence that the government’s provision for fuel subsidy for the year was inadequate.
The marketers, under the aegis of the Jetties and Petroleum Tank Farm Owners, said the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had only been deceiving the citizens that the N888bn earmarked by government to pay subsidy on fuel would be enough.
“We have said it continuously in the past that the N888bn fuel subsidy budget for 2012 was inadequate but the finance minister has been proving stubborn and deceiving Nigerians that the amount would be enough.
“We have been in this business for a long time and we know what the trends are. I am happy that our position has been justified,” Secretary of the oil marketers association, Mr. Enoch Kenawa, told one of our correspondents in Abuja.
Kenawa urged the National Assembly to promptly approve the President’s request for additional funding of subsidy payment, saying it was only by so doing that there would be fuel supply during the Yuletide.
He said, “We are calling on the National Assembly to quickly pass request of the President so that supply of products can increase.
“Once the money is approved, Nigerians are assured of a good holiday period to ensure adequate supply of fuel during Christmas.”
Jonathan on Tuesday wrote to the National Assembly asking for additional N161bn to offset arrears of subsidy claims and ensure payments till December 31.
The President told the federal lawmakers that the government had so far spent N881bn to pay subsidy this year.
Okonjo-Iweala, had on October 21, said that there would not be a supplementary appropriation for petroleum subsidy payments.
According to her, the N888bn allocated for subsidy payments in the 2012 budget should be enough to pay petroleum product importers.
She said that the fund had not been exhausted and should be enough to pay the subsidy bills for this year.
“We have not exhausted the fund and there may not be a need for a supplementary budget,” Okonjo-Iweala had said.
The oil marketers’ secretary also said that the N917bn budgeted for fuel subsidy in 2013 would not guarantee adequate supply of the product next year.
He said, “N917bn will not be adequate because the government wants to put Nigerians in double jeopardy. They said they are subsidising fuel yet people can’t see fuel to buy and where they have fuel, people still pay very high to get this product.
“The N971bn for fuel subsidy will not be adequate. At 35 million litres of fuel per day, the money can’t be enough. If they want to remove subsidy let them remove it instead of what they are doing right now. Based on the demand, the amount that would be reasonable for fuel subsidy in 2013 should be between N1.2tn and N1.5tn.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives on Wednesday suspended debate on the fresh N161.6bn request by the President Goodluck Jonathan to fund fuel subsidy.
The House, after the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, read the President’s letter on Tuesday, had scheduled it for debate on Wednesday. But no sooner had the debate commenced than the Speaker halted it and said the members needed to be briefed by some Housee committees in order to properly debate the request for additional funding by Jonathan to pay subsidy.
Tambuwal said it was necessary for the House committees on Finance, Petroleum Resources (Upstream); Petroleum Resources, (Downstream); and Appropriation to brief members on the details of the supplementary budget.
Tambuwal noted that lawmakers had raised several “critical questions and issues” in the course of the debate for which answers had not been provided.
The speaker ruled to “suspend the debate until we meet tomorrow (today)” for the House to be briefed by the chairmen of the four committees.
“The debate will continue tomorrow”, he added.
Before the suspension, however, some members had sought to know the extent of the implementation of the Subsidy Re-Investment Programme since government had chosen to make additional budget for subsidy.
But while defending the President’s request, House Majority Leader, Mrs. Mulikat Adeola-Akande, claimed that it was a proactive step taken by Jonathan to prevent fuel scarcity during the Christmas and New Year period.
“I appeal to members to support the second reading of this bill”, she stated.
– The Punch