From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said that he will initiate a fact-finding process to determine the state of things on the removal of petroleum subsidy following the announcement Tuesday by Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, that President Muhammadu Buhari has not told anyone to remove it.
He stated this Wednesday while briefing State House Correspondents after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja.
He was responding to a question to provide clarity on the subsidy removal issue since the 2022 budget has no subsidy provision beyond June 2022.
Mohammed explained that he needed to consult with the relevant government agencies to determine the exact position of the subsidy removal question.
“As for the removal of fuel subsidy, I think you will give me time to consult with relevant departments and ministries and I will get back to you,” he said.
Recall that the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, had announced last October that
the federal government made provision for petrol subsidy only for the first six months of 2022 as the government looked towards complete deregulation of the sector.
“In our 2022 budget, we only factored in subsidy for the first half of the year; the second half of the year, we are looking at complete deregulation of the sector, saving foreign exchange and potentially earning more from the oil and gas industry,” she had said.
But Senate President on Tuesday after meeting with Buhari declared that the president had not directed anyone in his administration to implement the removal of petroleum subsidy.
While conceding that subsidy was a big burden that needed to be tackled, a solution must be found without placing the burden on ordinary Nigerians.
Lawan had said: “Well, it will be of interest to Nigerians to hear what I’ve come to discuss with Mr President among several other things.
“Many of us are very concerned with the recent agitations, protests, and many citizens were so concerned, our constituents across the country are very concerned that the federal government will remove the petroleum subsidy. And for us, as parliamentarians, as legislators representing the people of Nigeria, this must be of interest to us.
“And we’ve just finished our recess, we had gone home to our constituencies and senatorial districts. And will felt the pulse of our people. And I found it necessary to visit Mr. President, as the the leader of our government and our leader in the country, to discuss this particular issue of concern to Nigerians, and I’m happy to inform Nigerians that Mr. President never told anyone that the petroleum subsidy should be removed.
“I know and I agree that the subsidy is very heavy. But I think we must never transfer the burden to the citizens.
“I believe that we need to look at the quoted figure of maybe 100 million litres that people claim we’re consuming. Is it real? I mean is it either under-recoveries of subsidy? Is it really 100 million litres per day? How on earth are we consuming that?
“We need to look at this critically and see how we can find the truth. Because I am not convinced that within the boundaries of Nigeria we are consuming 100 million litres. Probably neighbouring countries may be benefiting from this. Can’t we do something about it?
“It is a failure on us if we are not able to control it, this particular aspect of smuggling of the petrol and then in return, push the burden to the ordinary citizen.”
Asked what will happen since the 2022 budget does not provide for subsidies, he had responded: “No, I’m not going to speculate on that. But I’m telling you, what I know, from my discussions with Mr President, and I don’t want to go beyond that kind of understanding.
“He didn’t tell anybody that we should go remove petroleum subsidy. And those of us who represent the people know how people are already stressed over and again, this is going to kill everyone if people don’t say we know is going to be too much for them.”