The House of Representatives yesterday suspended debates on President Goodluck Jonathan's request to the National Assembly for an additional N161,617,364,911 billion over and above the N888.1 billion approved for payment of fuel subsidy in 2012.
House Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, in ordering the suspension, said inputs from the House Committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream) and Finance and Appropriation were crucial in guiding the House to approve or reject Jonathan's request.
The listed House Committee chairs were curiously absent when the matter came up for deliberation at yesterday's plenary.
The supplementary budget, if approved by the National Assembly, will bring the total fuel subsidy budget for 2012 to N1, 041,881,608,594 trillion.
In wide-ranging debates before the suspension, Minority Whip, Samson Osagie (Edo/ACN), Uzor Azubuike (Abia/PDP) and Friday Itulah (Edo/PDP) queried Nigeria's reliance on costly refined petroleum imports and the inability of the country's refineries to function at full capacity.
The lawmakers equally expressed worry on the sustainability of the federal government's fuel subsidy regime and the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).
Jonathan had, in a letter to the National Assembly, said that the 2012 budget for the subsidy programme was underestimated, and that, at present, the sum of N880.1 billion had been paid out, leaving a balance of N7.7billion.
Jonathan said the extra fuel subsidy fund was needed to settle accumulated fuel subsidy arrears owed oil marketers, and to maintain a steady supply of petroleum products, especially in the run-up to the festive season.
Meanwhile, a foremost lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has called on the National Assembly to throw out the president' N161 billion supplementary budget proposal for fuel subsidy pay out.
In a press statement he signed, Falana pointed out that the National Assembly had, in 2011, appropriated N245 billion for fuel subsidy.
LEADERSHIP recalls that, in violation of the Appropriation Act 2011 and the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, the Central Bank of Nigeria paid out N2.3 trillion for fuel subsidy on the basis of the fraudulent recommendations of the Federal Ministries of Finance and Petroleum Resources.