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Conference Gives Conditions on Removal of Fuel Subsidy

Source: pointblanknews.com
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Controversy surrounding the recommendation by the Public Finance and

Revenue Committee of the on-going National Conference demanding complete

removal of subsidy on petroleum product has been resolved.

The Committee's recommendation had met a brick wall on Monday when it was

raised on the floor of the Conference with both those who were for and

those against stating their positions with vehemence.

However, through a motion by Dan Nwanyanwu and 24 others on Tuesday, it

was agreed that removal of subsidy on petroleum products within the next

three years should be preceded by building of new refineries and repair of

existing ones to full capacity.
The conference unanimously resolved that private sector investors granted

licenses to build new refineries shall, within a period of three years,

build such refineries or automatically forfeit such licenses to enable

other participants who are ready and willing to build such refineries to

do so.
Conference observed that the issue of total subsidy removal on petroleum

products has been a recurring decimal on the programmes of successive

governments over the years; and that there are merits in the arguments of

both the protagonists and the antagonists.
The decision of the Conference was drawn from the observation that

sustained subsidy retention has become a major drain on the nation's lean

resources which cannot be left to continue indefinitely.

It was argued that although the subsidy regime has been fraught with

massive corruption and may not necessarily be to the advantage of the poor

masses as often indicated, immediate removal of subsidy without requisite

mitigating infrastructure was bound to have a spiral effect that may see

prices of essential commodities rising with attendant effect on the poor

masses.
The Conference also resolved that two Accountant Generals, one for the

Federation and another for the Federal Government be appointed henceforth

subject to the approval of the Senate, for a single term of six years.

Based on arguments over the non-functionality of the Revenue Mobilisation,

Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) due to the overbearing attitude

of the Executive Arm of Government, Conference decided that RMAFC should

be placed on first-line charge.
Conference however rejected an amendment by a member that salaries and

allowances of political office holders be placed at par with that of

senior civil servants through amendment of Section 70 of the 1999

Constitution.
Also rejected was the recommendation that the Fiscal Responsibility Act of

2007 should be enshrined in the 1999 Constitution although it was resolved

that its adherence be strictly followed.
It was also the decision of the Conference that henceforth, government

agencies responsible for revenue generation and collection must comply

with Section 162(3) of the 1999 Constitution which requires them to remit

gross revenue in full to the Federation Account and resort to normal

budget process of obtaining budget approval from the National Assembly to

fund their operations.
Consequently, Conference resolved that all the sections of the enabling

Acts of these departments and agencies of government that allow them to

retain revenues and surplus to fund their operations be amended.

A recommendation that licensed professionals be engaged as tax

administrators or consultants was rejected by the delegates; also rejected

was the call for establishment of revenue courts for expeditious

disposition of tax issues.
It was also the decision of Conference that the current 1.68% charge from

the Federation Account for the development of solid minerals nationwide be

increased to 5% while government should commence immediate utilization of

the fund for the purpose it was designated.
The plenary session on Tuesday also approved the recommendation that solid

minerals and mines should be included in the Concurrent Legislative List.

On the Sovereign Wealth Fund, Conference agreed that 50% of accruals from

excess crude account should be taken to the fund while equivalent

percentage of earnings from solid minerals should also be taken to the

fund.
To boost mechanized farming across the country, Conference resolved and

adopted the recommendation for establishment of Agricultural Development

Fund and that 10% of the money from the excess crude account should be set

aside for the fund.
It was also agreed that Section 85(3) be deleted from the 1999

Constitution to enable the Auditor General of the Federation to audit or

appoint external auditors to audit Federal Government accounts in

statutory bodies.
The section states that: 'Nothing in this sub-section shall be construed

as authorizing the Auditor General to audit the accounts of or appoint

auditors for government statutory corporations, commissions, authorities,

agencies, including all persons and bodies established by an Act of the

National Assembly.'
To enhance the performance of the economy, it was agreed that government

should source for funds to revamp Ajaokuta Steel Projects and other steel

projects through public private partnership.
On the recommendation of the Committee that government was free to engage

in external borrowing, the Conference resolved that government was not

completely at liberty to borrow but that a ceiling has to be placed on how

much government should borrow.
To monitor projects tied to borrowed funds, the Conference agreed that

Debt Management Offices be established in each state of the Federation

without further delay.
In a bid to eliminate corruption in the country, the Conference said the

National Assembly should enact what it called Ill-Gotten Gain Act such

that individuals can be held to explain the sources of their wealth.