From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammedu Buhari has approved the suspension of the removal of fuel subsidy earlier scheduled for June 2022 until further notice.
Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, made the disclosure after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.
addressing the State House Correspondents, the minister said the executive would propose 18 months extension to National Assembly for the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) that was meant to kickstart next month.
President Buhari had on August 16, 2021 signed the Petroleum Industry Bill into law. His assent to the bill was in furtherance to the passage of the Bill by both the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier in July 2021. The PIA is expected to grow investors’ confidence in the petroleum industry and create more employment opportunities for the populace in the host communities.
Sylva explained that the suspension is to give all stakeholders time to ensure the implementation is carried out in a manner that guarantees that all necessary modalities are in place to cushion the effect of the PMS subsidy removal.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has agreed to an extension of the statutory period for the implementation of the removal of subsidy on petrol (Premium Motor Spirit, PMS) in accordance with extant laws.
“However, following extensive consultations with all key stakeholders within and outside the government, it has been agreed that the implementation period for the removal of the subsidy should be extended.
“This extension will give all the stakeholders time to ensure that the implementation is carried out in a manner that guarantees that all necessary modalities are in place to cushion the effect of the PMS subsidy removal in line with prevailing economic realities,’’ Sylva said.
On the likely effects of the subsidy removal on livelihoods of the poor, Sylva said: “The president assures that his administration will continue to put in place all necessary measures to protect the livelihoods of all Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable.’’
On the fuel queues that have resurfaced, he advised Nigerians to stop hoarding fuel nor engage in panic buying as government has no plans remove subsidy, Sylva said: “We don’t intend to remove subsidy now. That is why we are making this announcement.”
On the possible legal implications after the assent to the PIA by President Buhari, the minister said: “We also see the legal implications. There is six months provision in the PIA which will expire in February and that is why we are coming out to to say that before the expiration of this time, as I said earlier, we will engage the legislature. We believe that this will go to the legislature, we are applying for some amendment of the law so that we would still be within the law.
“We are proposing an 18months extension but what the National Assembly is going to approve is up to them. We would approve an 18 months extension and then it is up to the national Assembly to look at it and pass the amendment as the see it.”
Asked if the suspension has something to do with 2023 elections, he said: “Of course not. As I told , first it’s just the human face of the government, Mr. President especially wants certain structures to be in place. And he insisted if we want to remove subsidy, we must make sure that we put every measure in place to protect the suffering masses of Nigeria.”
On the possibility of gradual increase, that is not on the table right now, the minister said: “Gradual or increment in whatever guise is not on the table. We are going to see how to rejig the law, this is not going to be the only amendment to the PIA. A few months ago, the President already proposed an amendment to the law.”