Nigeria · Politics

It’s final: Reps reject fuel subsidy removal

The House of Representatives yesterday voted in favour of throwing out President Goodluck Jonathan’s subsidy removal clause from the government’s expenditure proposals for 2012 to 2014.

Jonathan plans to end fuel subsidies beginning from January 2012 to save billions of naira for development projects, but this has been facing stiff resistance from labour unions and parliamentarians.

The 2012-2014 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) bill containing the subsidy removal proposal passed through second reading in the House on October 19 and was referred to a joint committee for further legislative work.

Yesterday, the joint committee on Finance, Appropriations, Legislative Budget and Research, and National Planning and Economic Development, headed by Rep. John Enoh, presented its report on the MTEF, recommending the rejection of subsidy removal because the plan was ‘premature.’

“The proposal on fuel subsidy removal as contained in the revised Fiscal Strategy paper is premature. Sources other than relying on savings from proposed subsidy removal as part of financing items for expected deficit should be explored,” the committee said in the report.

When Enoh presented the report, Rep. Matthew Omegara (PDP, Imo) attempted to provoke debate on the matter but was shouted down by his colleagues.

Omegara had wanted the issue of subsidy removal to be stood down for another day because the government was still considering it. He was subsequently forced to withdraw his opposition to the committee’s recommendation.

At this point, deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, who presided over consideration of the report, put the question as to whether the clause rejecting subsidy removal be approved. The lawmakers unanimously voted in support of the committee’s recommendation.

This brings an end to the debate on fuel subsidy in the House of Representatives as far as the MTEF bill is concerned, though the bill would still have to be voted on as a whole at third reading stage which is more of a formality.

But the President may still include the issue in the main 2012 budget proposal expected to be tabled before the National Assembly later in the month.

The Senate is yet to take a formal stand on the MTEF bill, but senators along with House members reportedly told President Jonathan at a meeting two weeks ago that they were not willing to support fuel subsidy removal.

Shortly after the House took its decision yesterday, Rep Nkoyo Toyo (PDP, Rivers) warned that the parliament must revisit the issue of subsidy removal someday because it formed the basis of the MTEF document.

The House yesterday also approved the exchange rate of naira at N155 to a dollar for the year 2012.

Oil benchmark price was fixed at $70 dollars per barrel, while daily oil production target is 2.58 million barrels.

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