President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday explained that his administration is yet to take a stand on fuel subsidy removal to avoid triggering hike in prices of essential commodities and services.
The President gave the explanation after receiving briefing from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other agencies in the oil sector.
This is as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, also yesterday said the only legal way the Federal Government can permanently remove the subsidy is to initiate an amendment to the Price Control Act, or have it repealed entirely by the National Assembly
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), had during the campaigns, said it does not believe in subsidy and will abolish the policy if elected.
A statement by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said Buhari promised that his administration would handle the issue of subsidies on petroleum products with care.
“When you touch the price of petroleum products, that has the effect of triggering price rises on transportation, food and rents. That is for those who earn salaries, but there are many who are jobless and will be affected by it,” the President noted.
The President, according to the statement, told his guests that he had so far received a lot of submissions on the need to remove the subsidies but that he was still carefully reviewing them.
“I have received many literatures on the need to remove subsidies, but much of it has no depth. When you touch the price of petroleum products, it has the effect of triggering price rises on transportation, food and rents,” the President said.
Buhari also said that insecurity, sabotage, vandalism, corruption and mismanagement, not necessarily subsidies, are the most serious problems of Nigeria’s oil sector.
He promised to deal decisively with all identified problems of the oil and gas sector. “We have to go back to the good old days of transparency and accountability,” the President said.
He directed the NNPC to review existing agreements for the swapping of crude oil for refined products with a view to injecting more honesty and transparency into the process to reduce costs as well as to do more to improve the supply of cooking gas.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dogara, who noted that petroleum products were listed among the items to be regulated through pricing in the Price Control Act, said another option open to government on the subsidy issue, is to inaugurate the price control board provided for under the Act so that the board, in performing its functions, could remove petroleum products from the list.
“This is the most legal way to do it so that subsidy can go permanently. It is not by policy pronouncements alone; so it is for the government to quickly put the board in place and this issue can be done with once and for all,” the speaker said, when he received a delegation of members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria at the National Assembly.
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