15 December 2012

Nigeria: Fuel Subsidy - Why Senate Approved N162 Billion Supplementary Budget

The Chairman Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, Friday said the upper chamber had to approve President Goodluck Jonathan's request for an addition N162 billion being an additional part of the 2012 supplementary budget for fuel subsidy without delay because of the overall security implication of the request and for the overall interest of Nigerians.

Underscoring the expeditious passage of the Bill, he said: "Senate considered that yes we did, we suspended our rules because the rules is our own, we ought to have done it in two or three days but it was a national security question, which we needed to consider and pass in an expeditious manner to make sure that it does not stay.

"However we have fixed Wednesday 19, for the consideration and passage of the 2013 budget by the notice paper that has been published and we have almost as an exclusive item on the order paper to make sure that we pass", he said

Enang who spoke in an interactive session with the media said: "What actually transpired was that President Goodluck Jonathan sent a request to the National Assembly (NASS) to approve a supplementary budget of N162 billion to bring the subsidy amount for the year to N1trilion, and we considered it in Senate that it was reasonable for us to pass the Bill."

He added that the President must be commended for adhering to the rule of law in seeking the approval of the subsidy.

Enang said: "Remember, last year when Senator Bukola Saraki brought a motion that there was only a provision of N500 billion in the budget for subsidy and as at August or there about, Nigeria had spent N1.4 trillion and at the end of the year.

"What was spent was a little over N2trillion on subsidy and part of the accusation against him was that he incurred that expenditure without seeking appropriation of the NASS and that was correct because it was not appropriated for."

According to him, what President Jonathan did now was to bring that appropriation to the lawmakers, thereby drawing the attention of the lawmakers to the fact that this is what it cost us to subsidize petroleum for the year.

"We considered it, that since this was the only item he requested for and since in my opinion what the President did is less of an economic matter but more of a national security imperative, because the application and availability of energy and oil in the country is not just about economy, but national security imperative question. The application and the availability of energy and oil in a country is not just the economic convenience of the citizens but the national security action because you should know out of frustration of commuters at a season like this you see queues with over 300 vehicles in a line in one filling station." he said.

The President, according to Enang, was kind enough to address a national security question, putting into the powerful influence of the oil cabal, adding, "And again the cabal have formed such a strong union that they can hold the government to ransom. Some of them have petrol in their tank farms or ship they refuse to release their products because they are being owed and they don't mind paying demurrage instead of bringing it in and selling to Nigerians. It is therefore in the interest of Nigerians that we approved the supplementary budget of N162 billion.

Berating the poor handling of the SURE-P fund, he stated: "Although we have not properly utilized the money we have made from the SURE-P and I have no apology to the SURE-P team, I respect Dr. Christopher Kolade and some other individuals and the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Economic Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, but the application and utilization of that money has not been in the interest of the economy because I believe that what should have been done with that money, is if it was for savings we made from partial withdrawal of subsidy we would have told ourselves what were we subsidizing, importation of refined petroleum products."

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