Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said he will need to consult with relevant agencies to know the exact position of government on whether or not fuel subsidy will be stopped this year.
Mohammed, who spoke with newsmen after the weekly virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the State House, Abuja, explained that he was going to initiate a fact-finding process to determine the state of things on the removal of petroleum subsidy following the announcement Tuesday by Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, that President Buhari had not told anyone to remove fuel subsidy.
When asked to clarity the issue since the 2022 budget has no subsidy provision beyond June 2022, the minister said he needed to consult with the relevant government agencies to determine the exact position of the subsidy removal question.
He said: “As for the removal of fuel subsidy, I think you will give me time to consult with relevant departments and ministries and I will get back to you.”
Last October, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, had announced that the federal government made provision for petrol subsidy only for the first six months of 2022 as the government looked towards a complete deregulation of the sector.
She had said: “In our 2022 budget, we only factored in subsidy for the first half of the year. The second half of the year, we are looking at complete deregulation of the sector, saving foreign exchange and potentially earning more from the oil and gas industry.”
Reacting to Ahmed’s position after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja on Tuesday, Senate President, Lawan, told newsmen that President Buhari had not directed anyone in his government to implement the removal of petroleum subsidy.
But he also conceded that subsidy was a big burden, noting that a solution had to be found to it.
He said: “Well, it will be of interest to Nigerians to hear what I’ve come to discuss with Mr. President among several other things.
“Many of us are very concerned with the recent agitations, protests and many citizens were so concerned, our constituents across the country are very concerned that the federal government will remove the petroleum subsidy. And for us, as parliamentarians, as legislators representing the people of Nigeria, this must be of interest to us.
“And we’ve just finished our recess, we had gone home to our constituencies and senatorial districts. And we felt the pulse of our people. And I found it necessary to visit Mr. President, as the the leader of our government and our leader in the country, to discuss this particular issue of concern to Nigerians, and I’m happy to inform Nigerians that Mr. President never told anyone that the petroleum subsidy should be removed.
“I know and I agree that the subsidy is very heavy. But I think we must never transfer the burden to the citizens.”