After hours of argument, the Senate on Thursday set aside its rule to give accelerated passage to the request of President Goodluck Jonathan’s N161 billion for fuel subsidy for the year.
President Jonathan had on Tuesday forwarded a supplementary budget of N161, 617, 364, 911 to accommodate the outstanding arrears resulting from the forensic audit exercise and the remaining period of the 2012
The budget was passed amidst strong reservations from mainly the opposition lawmakers who described the budget proposal as a clear blackmail by the executive.
After contributions from senators who all endorsed the request of the President though with some reservations, suspended its Standing Order Rule 79 to first send it to Appropriation committee and agreed to go into committee of the whole to approve the supplementary budget.
Before the supplementary budget was passed into law, Senate President David Mark said the country would have to decide on fuel subsidy, saying, “It is no gain saying and not a secret anymore that there is so much corruption in the fuel subsidy industry in whatever system they are adopting. I think the nation must make a decision now whether to continue this or to stop it.
“If they can’t eliminate and stop the corruption in the system then the other alternative will be to stop the whole exercise of fuel subsidy. And we must take the one that is easier and the one that will bring less pain to Nigerians.
“I thank all of you for taking into consideration the fact that if this is not approved, Nigerians are the ones who are going to suffer. The reason why we are in the chambers here is to work for the welfare of our people.
“And anything we can do to alleviate their sufferings, we have done and we should continue to do and we will continue to do in the best interest of those who elected us to be here”.
“The nation in my candid opinion must make that decision sooner than later because we cannot carry on this way. Obviously, they should have anticipated that there was going to be a shortfall when they first made this presentation at the beginning of the year.
“That did not happen. We are now saddled with the responsibility of this additional approval and we have done so in the best interest of this country”.
Abdul Ningi in his contribution said, “If we did not approve this budget, it will be said that the legislature is causing fuel scarcity, let us go ahead and approve it and come up with scientific figures in 2013. The money is going to be taken from the consolidated revenue of the federal government.
Contrary to Ningi’s submission, Senator Smart Adeyemi said, “Any request that will help the well being of the masses should be supported, but i have strong reservation for the economic team, there is something wrong because the request should have been made earlier.
Senator Ganiyu Solomon, while supporting the request said, “They are bringing it at the right time when we seem not to have any choice, we are now back to square one with the initial figure which we queried, what has happened to the report of the fuel subsidy because nobody has been brought to book as a result of the investigation, we should get to the bottom of this N1.1 trillion when it was much smaller in 2010
Commenting, Ahmed Lawan described the budget as a blackmail by the executive, saying they are only forcing the National Assembly when they knew they have no choice.
“I have no choice than to support it because Nigerians should not be made to suffer the inadequacies and incompetence of the economic team who did the audit, there is no evidence that we require this N161billion.”
But Lawan’s language was not appreciated by Senator Smart Adeyemi which however resulted in rising temper.
Lawan however continued saying, “I hope we are not creating another cabal replacing those who have been indicted, we need to be very firm and insist on getting all the relevant information in good time and based on facts, but, this one is based on sentiments and I want to warn that nobody should take advantage of us to blackmail us
With order restored, some other lawmakers who although supported the passage of the budget expressed serious concern, but the senate president, David Mark said there is no end in sight to the massive corruption in the management of fuel subsidy and advised Nigerians to make a decision urgently whether to continue with fuel subsidy or not.
“The nation must make a decision now whether to continue with subsidy or not. They should have anticipated that there was going to be a shortfall, now, we are shouldering its approval, the executive only want to set us against the Nigerian people, so, we need to be wise”, Mark said.
President Jonathan in his letter reminded the senate that “As at now the sum of N880,264,243,683:61bn has been paid out leaving a balance of N7, 735, 756, 316: 39billion. In order to accommodate the outstanding arrears resulting from the forensic audit exercise and the remaining period of the 2012 an additional sum of N161, 617, 364, 911 over and above what was programmed in the 2012 framework is required.
“Given the need to maintain a steady flow of petroleum products, especially in the run up to the festive season, it is my hope that the distinguished senators will kindly accord this request their traditional expeditious consideration and approval”.