Updates: House Of Reps Summons Ibe Kachikwu Over Fuel Subsidy Removal
The House of Representatives has cut short its resumption of plenary by one day — from Tuesday to Monday (today) — to take a position on the issue of the removal of the subsidy on petrol by the Federal Government.
The House summoned the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Sunday, to appear today and explain why the government jacked up the pump price of petrol to N145 from N86.50k.
The minister is to address lawmakers at the session to be presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, beginning by 12pm.
Dogara had on Friday last week, hinted that members would debate the fuel price increase this week and take a position on the new price regime.
He spoke in Abuja while granting audience to a delegation from the National Council of Ulamas of the Jamatu Izalatil Bid’ah Wa Iqamatis Sunnah at the National Assembly.
Dogara had stated that the House would not support any policy that would “further impoverish” Nigerians, but clarified that the final decision would be taken by all the 360 lawmakers this week.
He said, “I do not want to come out with an opinion because I know that the matter, very soon, will come to the floor of the House of Representatives and as the presiding officer, I don’t want to give my opinion before that time.
“But, one thing we can take home and assure our followers is that we will never allow any measure to be embarked upon by the government that would further impoverish our people.
“And so, there are times as leaders, that we take very difficult decisions. The reason why we came to a position where this country was waiting to explode was because any time we were confronted with difficulties, we had always taken the easiest way out.
“We never involved ourselves in taking hard, very hard choices for our people. This is a matter that is subject to further re-examination and as a parliament, we will listen to all.
“In the House of Representatives, we represent everyone, whether it is the government, labour, whatever the institutions, we are their representatives; so when the matter comes, we will look at it and ensure that everything is resolved.
“Even if there is a conflict, I am sure we will play a mediatory role.”
Investigations by The PUNCH on Sunday showed that the leadership of the House resolved to convene the special session today soon after Dogara’s meeting with the delegation ended on Friday.
It will be recalled that in 2012, the House had convened a similar session to oppose the decision of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan to remove fuel subsidy.
Amid the mounting opposition from across Nigeria, the Jonathan-led administration later settled for a pump price of N97 per litre.
The administration later reduced the pump price to N86.50 before it jumped to N145 last week as the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari announced the total removal of subsidy.
The development came as the Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, a known pro-subsidy legislator, made a U-turn to kick against the continued retention of subsidy.
It was Gbajabiamila, who led a debate on the floor of the House in 2012 to berate Jonathan’s decision to remove fuel subsidy.
However, he told The PUNCH on Sunday that he was compelled to change his mind and support subsidy removal because the “overwhelming” evidence on the ground had shown that subsidy was not sustainable.
He added, “But, now, for the first time, I was at a stakeholders’ meeting with the Vice-President’s office, with labour leaders, by the time a graphic picture of what was happening, with facts and figures, was reeled out, and what was about to happen if we continued this way, much as I resisted, it was clear to me that we might not even have a country in a couple of months.
“I saw clearly that no state would be able to pay salaries in two months’ time, even oil-producing states would not be able to pay salaries, if there was no federal allocation.
“At that point, I was caught between the devil and deep blue sea. It was now a question of do you want to resist the removal of subsidy and then down the line you can’t even pay salaries?
“I came to the very painful conclusion that in the short term, deregulation was the best way to go and that in the long term, it will pay off for everybody.”
However, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party members described the government’s move as “laughable.”
They asked why it took the government so long to see what Jonathan saw many years ago and resolved to fix it but he was opposed.
The Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Leo Ogor, in particular, asked the government to apologise to the PDP.
The Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, Mr. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, a PDP member, also called for an apology from the Buhari government.
Meeting scheduled for today. Issues of palliative measures would also be discussed.
MODIFIED: The fuel increment has been a major issue for the last few day. I think this meeting is an important one and i will take time out to sensitize the people on this meeting. I believe the benefits are enormous.
Please LOGIN or REGISTER To Gain Full Access To This Article