Uche Usim, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, shocked millions of Nigerians when he revealed that his administration has earmarked $1 billion (N305 billion) to settle petrol subsidy payouts in 2019.
The revelation was in contrast to his administration’s repeated denial that it was not cut out for subsidy payment, having jerked up petrol price from N87/litre to N145/litre at the beginning of his tenure in 2015.
While speaking to the joint session of the National Assembly, on Wednesday, in Abuja, the President captured the $1 billion as under-recoveries of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Buhari said: “We have allowed N305 billion, equivalent to $1 billion for under-recoveries by NNPC on premium motor spirit in 2019,” Buhari said.
“We will continue working to bring it downwards, so that such resources are freed to meet the developmental needs of our people.
“Let me also use this opportunity to address and clarify the under-recoveries or subsidies on petrol in a period of economic challenges, our purchasing power is weak, we must reduce some of the burden on Nigerians.”
According to him, subsidy payouts today are much more different from what they used to be in the past, stating that the NNPC is the sole importer of oil today.
“The problem in subsidies in the past was abuse and corruption. Today, the government through the NNPC is the sole importer of premium motor spirit.
“Therefore the under-recovery is from the NNPC trading account. This means the possibilities of some marketer falsifying claims are removed.”
On infrastructural renewal, the President said his administration will emphasize on power, roads and rail. “In addition to completing the Ibadan-Kano rail line we will also embark upon and move rapidly to complete the Eastern Rail from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri passing through Aba, which will connect to Abakaliki, Awka, Enugu, Owerri, Umuahia, then through Makurdi, Jos, Bauchi and Gombe. The Coastal Rail from Calabar to Lagos will also be completed as we aim to build a true national rail network that links all State capitals. Our road projects will gather pace and priority projects under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund such as the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressway, the Second Niger Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan expressway will be fast-tracked for early completion.
“We shall expand generation, transmission and distribution of power from the national grid while developing innovative off grid solutions for schools, hospitals and markets.
“Efforts to improve hard infrastructure will be complemented by expanding reforms in the ease of doing business initiative. We will continue to remove obstacles, reduce costs and ensure timely delivery of services”, he stated.