The Muhammadu Buhari administration may have finally passed on the controversy around the desirability or otherwise of the fuel subsidy removal to his would-be successor in 2023.
And if the proposal sails through before the National Assembly that is expected to give it some legal bite via an amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), then the subsidy may be taken out by July 2023, barely one month after a new administration must have been inaugurated.
The federal government dropped the hint Tuesday while providing further insight into the reasons the subsidy remains despite an earlier position that it would be removed by the end of June.
It said the president insisted all the necessary structures must be put in place to cushion the effects of the removal in 18 months’ time.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva announced this while briefing State House Correspondents in Abuja after a meeting with the president.
He said the structures, as pointed out by the president, were not yet in place, adding that with Buhari’s intervention, fuel subsidy is not on the table for now.
The minister said the government would continue to engage the leadership of the organised labour who had earlier proposed nationwide protest on January27 against the subsidy removal would go ahead.
The minister said the executive would propose 18-month extension to National Assembly for the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) that was meant to kick-start this February.
“We don’t intend to remove subsidy now. That is why we are making this announcement. We also see the legal implication. There is
six-month provision in the PIA which will expire in February and that is why we are coming out to say that before the expiration of this time, as I said earlier, we will engage the legislature. We believe that this will go to the legislature; we are applying for amendment of the law so that we would still be within the law.
“We are proposing an 18-month extension, but what the National Assembly is going to approve is up to them. We would approve an 18-month extension and then it is up to the National Assembly to look at it and pass the amendment as they see it.
“Somebody mentioned here the possibility of gradual increase that is not on the table as well. Gradual or increment in whatever guise is not on the table.
“We are going to see how to rejig the law. This is not going to be the only amendment to the PIA. A few months ago, the President already proposed an amendment to the law,” Sylva said.
PIB signed into law
President Buhari had on 16th August, 2021 signed the Petroleum Industry Bill into law.
Buhari’s assent was in furtherance to the passage of the Bill by both the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier in July 2021.
The PIA is expected to grow investors’ confidence in Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry and create more employment opportunities for the populace in the host communities.
NLC suspends nationwide protest
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Tuesday suspended its plan nationwide protest over the planned removal of fuel subsidy.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said labour would continue to engage the government on critical issues that affect Nigerians.
“At the peak of very rigorous mobilisation of Nigerians by the Nigeria Labour Congress and a host of her Civil Society allies, the government through the Minister of Finance yesterday,
24 January, 2022 made a public announcement reversing the plans to increase petrol pump price.
“The position of the government was also officially communicated to the Congress with calls for further engagement. Following the reversal and reproach by government, the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress met this morning virtually to consider the new position of the government.
“The NEC after vigorous debates took a decision to suspend the planned nationwide protest scheduled for 27 January, 2022 and the national protest scheduled for 2 February, 2022.
“The leadership of the Congress has communicated this organ decision to our civil society allies who have stood stoically behind Nigerian workers in our quest for social and economic justice for workers and the downtrodden people of our country.
“Going forward, we will continue to engage with the government on the very critical issues of ensuring local refining of petroleum, creation of sustainable jobs and affordable price of petrol for Nigerian workers and people,” Wabba said.
The union leader further commended Nigerians, civil society groups for their support and readiness to fight against more hardship on the masses.