…says increment to avert future scarcity

The Senate has added N108bn to the N413bn contained in the supplementary appropriation request sent to it by President Muhamadu Buhari for approval for the payment of outstanding fuel subsidy to oil marketers.FUEL-SCARCITY

The addition, which was proposed by the Senate Appropriation Committee yesterday, is to cover fuel subsidy for the last quarter of this year.

This new addition has therefore brought the total outstanding fuel subsidy requirement to N521bn. The lawmakers explained that the new addition was not part of the N413bn requested for by the President.

The N413bn fuel subsidy comprises N120.52bn areas for 2014, while the balance of N294.43b represents subsidy that has accrued from January to December 31 this year.

The senators stated that the addition became important in order to forestall possible fuel scarcity that may occur during the coming Christmas and New Year celebrations.

The committee blamed Ministry of Petroleum Resources and its agencies for computing the supplementary budget, without including the period from October to December. The lawmakers contended that the omission would have led to another round of fuel scarcity in no distant time.

Speaking on the development, Chairman of the committee, Senator Danjuma Goje, said the committee was disappointed to discover that the government was laying the foundation for another round of fuel scarcity by failing to budget for subsidy for the last quarter of the year especially as Christmas draws nearer. “We are concerned because we don’t want to see this kind of situation in the next four years again.

We want to see that fuel scarcity is totally eliminated 24 hours a day and fuel is available to all. But we are disappointed to hear that this subsidy is only from January to September.

“With Christmas coming, it will be unfortunate that after paying this money, we will come back and face this problem again,” Goje said. Also speaking, Senator Adamu Aliero said the October to December subsidy must be approved in the supplementary budget.

This position was supported by Senator Jibrin Barau, who said it was unacceptable that fuel scarcity should be a recurring decimal in this era of change In her response, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Jamilla Shuara, said the budget had been prepared before Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and herself assumed office as the Minister of State for Petroleum and permanent secretary respectively.

In order to save the situation, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma intervened with the assurance that a review of the budget would be done and the subsidy would be captured and re-submitted to the Senate by 3pm yesterday.

The committee sought further breakdown of the N120.5bn subsidy from the year 2014 and N294.4bn in 2015. But Goje, sensing that the request might upset the government officials, intervened, assuring that he would request for the document from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

However, the committee uncovered payment of unappropriated subsidy by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. Senator Bassey Akpan said the National Assembly had intelligence report that total subsidy, including that of NNPC, stood at N950bn, while the corporation had been pretending that the entire subsidy was N413bn.

This revelation implied that the corporation had been paying its own subsidy without appropriation. NNPC was not represented at the event as Shuara disclosed that notice of the budget defence only got to her and Kachikwu yesterday morning.

She added that Kachikwu was away in Lagos, persuading major oil marketers to resume importation since the process of their payment had kicked off. Meanwhile, the issue of unappropriated subsidy by NNPC was still left open, waiting to be dealt with another day.

Earlier, Director General, Budget Office, Aliyu Gusau, explained that the supplementary budget became compelling in view of discoveries that the amount earlier budgeted by the outgone administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan was insufficient to pay outstanding subsidy.

While defending security budget, Minister of Defence, Musa Dan-Ali, said N29.958bn had been captured in the budget for military operations against insurgency in the North-east.

According to him, N17.465bn is required for the well being of army personnel on the field; N8.141bn for logistics of the air force; N4.348bn as the balance of defence budget in the 2015 appropriation and N1.987bn required for short service recruitment by the military.

Ali did not hesitate to disclose that it was impossible to wipe out insurgency in one fell swoop, noting that all that was being done by government and the military was to ensure that maximum security was provided in observance of the December timeline given to eliminate insurgency.

Earlier, the Accountant General of the Federation had disclosed that of the N557bn capital expenditure appropriated in 2015, only N274.290bn had been released to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) so far. He gave the breakdown of the releases as N112.039bn in first quarter; N88.792bn in second quarter and what he described as capital supplementation of N73.459bn.

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