Suspend Fuel Subsidy Removal

Reps Tells FG

THE House of Representatives yesterday called for the suspension of the removal of the fuel subsidy by the Federal Government.

The decision was taken at an emergency session of the House held against the backdrop of the controversy and protest which greeted the Federal Government’s decision on January 1.

Commissioner for Economic Planning, Delta State, Chief Kenneth Okpara (middle), chatting with contractors handling the building project at the UNDP assisted multi-million naira youth multi-purpose skill acquisition centre in Egbokodo, Warri South Local Government Area of the state recently.

The Reps however, set-up two committees to meet with the representatives of Labour and the Federal Government and monitoring of the subsidy regime.

The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal said the decision of the House was in the best interest of the nation.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that the government and the country is governed wthdue process and respect for the rule of law, the Speaker said.

In an emergency session,  House of Representatives shouted down supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan as they voted for a resolution calling on him to restore subsidies.

“There exists a 1 per cent cabal. It is upon this plank and premise the executive seeks to remove the subsidy,” said Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, a member of the opposition party Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). “This cabal and their associates represent perhaps the biggest economic and financial crime in the history of Nigeria.”

Gas prices have risen from $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per litre) to at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per litre) since the subsidy ended January 1 at Jonathan’s order. That spurred a spike in prices for food and transportation across a nation of more than 160 million people where most live on less than $2 a day.

In response, two major unions said they will carry out a strike today, despite a court order restraining them from it. That sets up a situation similar to one faced by the OPEC member nation in 2003, when strikers over eight days attacked shops that remained open, took over air traffic control towers and cut into oil production in a country vital to U.S. energy supplies.

During yesterday’s session, televised live from the capital Abuja across the country, even members of Jonathan’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spoke out against him. Others said the fuel subsidy removal came without their knowledge, signalling Jonathan’s administration moved unilaterally on an issue now dividing the country.

Some lawmakers also said the fuel subsidy removal could lead to a revolution like those that swept across some Middle Eastern countries last year.

“We are sitting near a keg of gunpowder and we are playing with fire,” said Rep. Pally Isumafe Obokhuaime Iriase of the Action Congress of Nigeria. “This will be the last straw that will break the camel’s back if we do not act.”