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Senators, Reps caution FG on subsidy removal

Our reporters

Although by no means representative of the aggregate views of the membership of the national assembly, a few senators and members of the House of Representatives told Sunday Vanguard that the removal of subsidy at a time like this would only inflict more pains on Nigerians, mind you, without prejudice to the supposed benefits.

    Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, PDP, River South East and Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream

– Let’s get more information
“I think that the proposal by the President is commendable, giving the country for the first time a medium term budgetary plan where it will enable the government and the country look into the future. Nigerians are free to make their reactions, we should all look at what we will benefit from it, what it will profit the people. It is a fantastic one; as stakeholders, we should make our contributions; there is still a long way to go about it. Reactions of the public is expected, everyone will be encouraged. I don’t think Nigerians understand the whole issue of subsidy; the issue needs to be explained.

The most important thing we need as Nigerians is proper information on the process of the proposed removal of fuel subsidy, how it will work and how the country will benefit. I will like to advise that as Nigerians, we should be patient and not jump to conclusions, let us first of all get proper information from the government on how it will work. My position and that of my Committee members is that we will like to get enough information before we reach a conclusion”.

Senator Ita Solomon Enang, PDP, Akwa Ibom North East and Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business
– Condemns proposed removal of subsidy

It would affect the poor people in the society, the economy, the legislature, the executive and all aspects of human endeavour.  When it is removed, prices of things will go up and will never come down.  The Senate will examine it and take a decision. Government is not all about how much money that is in the purse, but about the welfare and well being of the people. The complaint is that a few people have been stealing the money and that forms just 1% of the population of the country and is that the reason why the remaining 99% must be left to suffer the sins of the just 1%? Government should correct the situation and not by punishing the people.

My candid suggestion is that if the President’s economic team cannot handle the situation, a national referendum should be held, I don’t agree with the removal of fuel subsidy, I know it is a government policy, the government should not allow those with Harvard ideas and policy that are now collapsing to confuse us in Nigeria.
Removing fuel subsidy will affect everything, you know that anything that goes up will not come down, the executive, the legislature, Nigerians will all be affected. We will be in serious trouble; we will not be able to curtail it when it starts in this country”.

Senator Dahiru Kuta, PDP Niger East and Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs
– Nigerians are already suffering

The people of Nigeria have lost confidence in successive leaders. Generally, there is mutual suspicion on the part of Nigerians, the followers and the leaders, that anything that involves collecting money for the commonwealth will be mismanaged. I am not completely for it.

How is the fund going to be managed? It will have been good because all our infrastructures have collapsed. We cannot fix power; we cannot fix industries; that is where the problem is. The removal will be good if the money will be judiciously used. I am with the people on this. The removal is untimely because Nigerians are not fully prepared for it. Everybody is suffering, majority of Nigerians are facing hardship at the moment.

Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, PDP, Delta North and Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Health
– Where would the funds be ploughed into?

It is important to get a stakeholders debate to look at all the issues before removal of subsidy. So much resource has been ploughed into subsidy considering the financing of the budget. It will appear that it will be very difficult for government to continue to finance the budget when you look at the huge amount that goes into subsidy.

There is the need to actually investigate whether the subsidy is getting to the right people. I know that Mr. President is interested in the common man and will do anything for the common man. But if the subsidy is removed, will it be ploughed back for the good of the common man?  The fact is which of the critical areas will it be ploughed into? Again, will it be total subsidy removal for all the petroleum products? we need to look for ways to soften the effect on the poor.

I think that a reasonable percentage should be ploughed back into education sector. Government should be able to provide free education from primary level to university level and I think it should also be ploughed back into health to provide free medical services to people.

HON. SAMSON OSAGIE ( A.C.N EDO, MINORITY WHIP)
– It’s a mixed bag
For me, the planned removal of the petroleum subsidy evokes mixed reaction. If you look at the subsidy as it is implemented now, it is only beneficial to the cartel that is involved in the importation of petroleum products into the country. If you remove it now, the avenue through which money is siphoned from the treasury would have been blocked. If you look at it from that perspective it is a good proposal.

But in doing that government must put in safety nets that would cushion the effects of the likely increase in the prices of petroleum products. There must be measures to cushion the effects on the people. When the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, was introduced by the government of General Ibrahim Babangida, government introduced measures that would reduce its effects on the people.

The subsidy as it is now is only beneficial to members of the cabal that are involved in fuel importation. The benefit that is accruing to them is not worthy of the cost of petrol at N65 because only a few people are benefiting from the subsidy.

HON. SOKONTE DAVIES (PDP RIVERS)

– Nigerians are not now benefiting from subsidy
As far as I am concerned if safety nets are to be provided for the people, it is a welcome development. I say so because from the onset, the generality of Nigerians has never benefited from the so-called subsidy. It has only created portfolio billionaires who are the beneficiaries. So if government has worked out how the masses will not be made to pay through their noses or ways to cushion the adverse effects of the removal of subsidy, then it is well and good. Otherwise, just leaving petroleum products’ prices to the whims and caprices of market forces might bring untold hardship on the people.

On the other hand, the removal of subsidy will encourage the private sector to begin to go into product refining than importation since the comparative advantages of local refining are higher than merely importing with the importers’ singular aim of collecting the subsidies. Many of the refining licenses will begin to be utilized and we might see market forces driving down prices due to competition as we have seen in the telecommunications sector.

Hon (Dr.) Joseph Akinlaja, Labour Party, Ondo East/West federal constituency

– Removal of subsidy will inflict punishment on  Nigerians

‘‘Nigeria is in a confused situation. We have always opposed the removal of oil subsidy on the ground that the funds that government generates in the so called deregulation policy are not used in the interest of the downtrodden Nigerians, who are harshly at the receiving end.

At a point in those days when we agreed that diesel should be deregulated the government said they would offer palliatives to the masses but today those palliative measures unfortunately end up in the pockets of the societal elites. It is the masses that feel the heat every time.

Those in government will not pay or queue to get petroleum products at the stations even if the price is N200 or more, they enjoy all these largesse and the conditions of the common man are never put into consideration. In civilised society, people pay according to the trend of market forces, if market forces fall then price also falls but in Nigeria reverse is the case, because we have greedy individuals at the helms of affairs. It is true that abroad the citizenry pay heavy taxes over there, but the people are unperturbed because they are better for it.

Their governments accordingly make adequate provisions for basic facilities like good roads, water, and electricity for domestic and industrial use among other things.  It is very disheartening that all economic theories tried and applied by the Nigerian government have failed, because sincerity of purpose is empirically lacking.

HON.  LANRE ODUBOTE (A.C.N. LAGOS)

– The decision is not popular

The planned removal of the subsidy is uncalled for at this moment. More importantly, you can only remove the subsidy if infrastructure has been put in place to meet the demands of the people.

Let the government bring a budget that can generate employment and better the lives of the Nigerian people. Removing the subsidy is not an option now and as the representatives of the people we cannot support this programme that is obviously not popular with Nigerians.

Obafemi Olawore, Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN)

– Demands of Labour, legitimate but…

The Federal Government should remove fuel subsidy and embark on full deregulation of the oil and gas industry in order to restructure the operations in the downstream sub-sector of the economy.

This requires consultation and exhaustive deliberation with the representatives of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other unions within the umbrella of labour, to avoid industrial action capable of crippling economic activities in the country.

Labour is right to say that government should put certain infrastructures in place before deregulation. The demands of labour are legitimate. However, government can provide infrastructures and still deregulate at the same time.  I believe that if government deregulates, the revenue derived from deregulation would be channeled into improvement of the infrastructures that labour wants.


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