Abuja — The Senate yesterday confirmed the payment of N11 trillion as fuel subsidy claims in the last six years. The chairman of its Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Kabir Marafa (APC, Zamfara), made the disclosure while tendering a report.This comes as the upper legislative chamber approved the payment of N129 billion as subsidy arrears for 67 oil marketers.
The approval followed the adoption of the report of the committee on the Promissory Note Programme and Bond Issuance for Oil Marketers Outstanding Claims before adjourning till June 6 for its valedictory session. Marafa noted that the decision had settled the lingering issue of subsidy claims by the marketers.
The lawmakers had also on Tuesday sanctioned the sum of N69 billion as subsidy payment for 19 oil importers.During the presentation, the panel chair observed that there were differences in submissions made by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and the marketers.
The report pointed out that all arrears were based on three inter-related elements - subsidy, forex differentials and bank interests.In their contributions, the legislators held that Nigeria was bleeding paying outstanding subsidy claims, adding that the action would further hurt the economy.
They therefore called for the building of new refineries to put an end to fuel subsidy payment.Specifically, Yusuf Yusuf (APC, Taraba Central) said until the value of the naira was addressed, there would always be fuel subsidy issues.
On his part, Victor Umeh (APGA Anambra Central), wondered what the next line of action was after the sum had been paid.However, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo), feared that the incoming Ninth Assembly would be inundated with more of such claims because "the computations were not properly done."
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, claimed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) now charges subsidy claims on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, a development he described as unconstitutional.
Besides, the Red Chamber has restrained the Federal Ministry of Aviation from going ahead with its plan to downgrade the Akanu Ibiam International Airport but rather rehabilitate the runway for the safety of passengers and aircraft.Former Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had announced the move, citing imminent dangers posed to air travellers by the location of a nearby market and a state radio mast on the flight path of airlines.
Other threats to the safety of incoming planes, according to him, were an abattoir, which attracts large birds and exposed the facilities to bird strikes, erection of a free trade zone and the deplorable state of the runaway.The resolution followed a motion by Victor Umeh (APGA, Anambra) and co-sponsored by 16 other lawmakers.Moving the motion, Umeh said that the importance and economic value of the airport could not be over-emphasized.