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MP's Ask Jonathan To Suspend Subsidy Removal

Source: THEWILL. - thewillnigeria.com
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ABUJA, January 08, (THEWILL) - After a tough emergency session, the House of Representatives Sunday passed a motion calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to rescind his decision on the removal of oil subsidy and revert back to N65 per litre in the best interest of country.

The lower chamber also called on the organised labour to suspend the nationwide strikes and mass protests slated to commence on Monday, 9th January 2012, in order to engage in dialogue on the matter even as it urged the security agencies to be civil and professional during the mass protests and rallies.

The adoption of the resolution followed a motion by Hon. Tajudeen Yusuf (PDP, Kogi) and 60 other members titled “Removal of fuel subsidy by the Executive Arm of Government”. The motion was seconded by Hon. Fort Dike (Anambra).

In ruling on the motion, Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal declared that the decision was taken in the best interest of the country, and called on Nigerian leaders to take collective responsibility to ensure due process, respect for the rule of law in doing things that will guarantee the corporate existence of Nigeria.

The Speaker also announced the composition of two 8-member committees. The first headed by the House committee on power, Hon. Patrick Ikhariale (PDP, Edo) is to interface with the Federal Government team made up of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Minister of Labour and Productivity and relevant agencies with the view to resolving the crisis.

The second committee headed by committee chairman on education, Hon. Farouk Lawan (PDP, Kano) is to verify and determine the actual subsidy requirements and monitor the subsidy regime. The committees are to report back in one week.

The emergency session was tension soaked as members full of emotions expressed their feelings dispassionately. Some of those who spoke against the removal of subsidy were, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (ACN, Lagos), Hon. Eziuche Ubani (PDP, Abia), Hernan Hembeh (PDP, Benue), Yakubu Dogara (PDP, Bauchi) Olarotimi Makinde, Uzor Azubuike, Rafiu Ibrahim, Ali Madaki, Patty Iriase, Abdulrahman Suleiman Kawu, Peter Akpatason, Emmanuel Goar, Evelyn, Kahdijat Bukar Abba-Ibrahim, Garba Sabongari, Ibrahim, Micah Makinde, Uzor Azubike, Adebayo Ibrahim, among others.

However, the following supported the removal: Hon. Davies Sekonte, Henry Seriake-Dickson, Mulikat Akande-Adeola, Yaqub Barde, Mohammed Ibrahim Idris, Joseph Akinlaja, Ndudi Elumelu, Warman Ogoriman, Asita Honourable, Andrew Uchendu, and Matthew Omegara.

While leading the debate, Tajudeen noted that while deregulation as a policy may not be altogether objectionable, the alternative to proper procedure and good timing of such policy is not only equally important but indeed imperative especially in a democratic dispensation.

He noted that there was inadequate distinction between the Federal Government’s contribution to the subsidy and the contribution of States and Local Governments, stressing that the savings from the subsidy removal by the Executive is less than N500 billion whereas the loss that would be occasioned by the impending strike action would be over N500 billion.

Tajudeen who kicked against the wrong timing of the removal of fuel subsidy, noted that Federal Government’s policy coincides with the time “when Nigerians are mourning the loss of loved ones resulting from acts of terrorism and grappling with serious challenges resulting in the extreme measures of the declaration of State of emergency in parts of the country, the executive have chosen to introduce a policy as highly volatile as the removal of the fuel subsidy.”

While supporting the motion, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, minority leader noted that the policy targeted at stopping one percent cabal in the oil industry would further aggravate the living standard of 99 percent of the entire citizenry, stressing that Presidency failed to adhere to the collective decision taken at two previous consultative forum held with the National Assembly.

The minority leader also condemned the ‘magical hike’ of fuel subsidy from N200 billion to N1.3 trillion by Federal Government agencies without appropriation by the National Assembly.

Supporters of the removal of fuel subsidy were intermittently shouted down by other lawmakers during the emergency plenary session.

In his contribution, Henry Seriake-Dickson explained that petrol is being sold at N300 per litre in Bayelsa and that the people relied on marine transportation, adding that the removal of fuel subsidy would help in saving the money spent on subsidy.

On his part, Sekonte noted that Nigeria has no comparative advantage over other oil producing countries including Saudi Arabia, adding that there is need for judicious use of the nation’s resources.

In adopting the motion, the House also appealed to Nigerians to exercise restraint in expressing their displeasure over the removal of the subsidy in order to allow more room for dialogue.

In his welcome address at the session, Speaker Aminu Waziru Tambuwal condemned the violence in different parts of country saying, “I wish to seize this opportunity to very specially commend the invaluable sense of maturity, understanding and restraint exhibited by the Christian members of the House of Representatives in connection with the most unfortunate and unwarranted 25th December 2011 Madalla Church bombing and other acts of violence on churches elsewhere in which innocent people lost dear lives and limbs.

“By this act of restraint the objective of these enemies of Nigeria to falsely give religious coloration to their senseless terrorist escapades has been defeated. We the entire members of the House of Representatives deeply and most sincerely sympathize with the bereaved families and indeed the entire Christian Community. At this point may we all rise and observe one minute silence in honour of all these innocent souls,” he said.

He assured that the House was committed to protecting lives and property of Nigerians saying, “let me reiterate that the National Assembly of Nigeria and the House of Representatives in particular is committed to upholding the fundamental rights of all Nigerians to live, reside and move freely in all parts of the country without molestation from any quarters. In the light of this, we call on all Nigerians wherever they are residing to resist any intimidation to migrate or flee in apprehension of the scare being created by those agents of meaningless violence and destruction as we shall render all support that the Executive requires to protect the lives and properties of all. This is a constitutional duty from which we shall not abdicate.

“As you are all aware certain recent developments of critical national concern, so utterly disrupted the socio-political equilibrium of our dear country that it became unconscionable, as representatives of the people, to continue on the recess, sincerely, it would amount to standing wisdom on its head for one to insist on continuing his siesta after due notice that his house is on fire. Honourable Colleagues, I am referring to the crucial issues of removal of fuel subsidy, declaration of state of emergency by Mr. President and the unrelenting violence and acts of terrorism. That is why we are here”.

“Honourable Colleagues, as we take our seats this afternoon, it is important to remind ourselves that the issues before us though weighty and critical are certainly not insurmountable. The survival of Nigeria as a united, indivisible and prosperous nation is of crucial importance and must be factored into whatever positions we adopt on these issues. In a world of competing challenges and opportunities, it is simply critical that we remain focused on our non-negotiable goals of building a modern state where justice, economic prosperity and political stability reign supreme.

“These issues have raised serious concerns amongst the generality of Nigerians but perhaps more so from the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and other organized critical stakeholders. These concerns are not unfounded but we believed the options are not exhausted if we are not to unwittingly push the country over the edge. Therefore, as we deliberate, I want to plead with you my dear colleagues not only to respect the views of others but also understand that times like this call for true leadership. At this difficult period of our history, the nation’s democratic tripod – the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary must approach legislation, governance and justice administration according to a set of principles that reflect a sense of permanent destiny of the nation.”