The Federal government of Nigeria on Monday said there won’t be any removal of fuel subsidy anytime soon as a result of perceived difficulties associated with it.
The country’s Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Ahmed stated this at an interactive meeting with the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan and other principal officers of the Senate.
The Minister said, the Federal government was initially looking at the removal of fuel subsidy from July this year, after which they made provisions in the 2022 budget to cushion the effect but noted that the timing has become a huge challenge.
The Finance Minister’s disclosure was at the backdrop of concerns raised by the Senate President who pointed out that there should be caution in the event of subsidy removal so as not to deepen the economic hardships of Nigerians.
Lawan said he visited President Muhammadu Buhari over plans to remove fuel subsidy and so many factors were taken into consideration but with a view to ensuring that the citizens are not at the receiving end.
In her further reaction, the Minister of Finance said her ministry consulted widely and discovered that the federal government cannot go ahead with the removal plans until some steps are taken to protect the interest of Nigerians.
She said: “Let me start by stating that we did make a provision in 2022 budget and which means that there will be fuel subsidy from July.
“After consultations with various stakeholders, it became apparent that the timing became a big problem and Mr President didn’t want that. We are looking at various means either putting our four refineries in order and allowing Dangote Refinery to come on stream.
“It means that we shall submit supplementary budget from July going forward.”
The Senate President had earlier said the country was confronted with the fuel subsidy liabilities but cautioned that the timing of its removal was inappropriate.
He called for the cooperation of stakeholders in the Petroleum industry to cooperate with the government on any step that would be taken, should there be a need to remove fuel subsidy or not, insisting that there was no confusion in government circles.
He also appealed to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), to shelve their planned protest noting that any step taken by the FG with regards to fuel subsidy would be in the interest of the country.
Lawan said: “Admittedly the burden of subsidy is huge and massive and there is a need to do away with it. It needs the cooperation of all of us. Even though the economy is slowing.
“The issue of removal of subsidy should be done with utmost care and the timing should be such the impact would not deepen our woes and Mr. President needs the cooperation of all of us.
“The Minister of Finance is here because she is the one that will provide the money and we must find suitable time and means of getting the issue of removing fuel subsidy finally.
“If we are saying this is not the appropriate time, it should be agreed by all of us so that there won’t be confusion anywhere.
“I appeal to NLC, TUC to shelve the idea of mass protest. It is unnecessary because the removal of fuel subsidy is a necessity.”
In attendance at the meeting were President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Limited, Mr. Mele Kyari, Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipreye Sylva and Chief Executive officers of Petroleum Downstream and Upstream sectors.