The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, says the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has not asked any official in his regime to implement the removal of petroleum subsidy.
Lawan disclosed this to State House correspondents after a meeting with the President at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
According to him, the purpose of his visit is to convey the concerns of the various constituencies represented at the National Assembly over certain issues, especially the proposed removal of fuel subsidy.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, had last October said the Federal Government would provide petrol subsidy for only the first six months of 2022. This, she said, was part of efforts to deregulate the sector altogether.
She said, “In our 2022 budget, we only factored in subsidy for the first half of the year; in the second half of the year, we are looking at complete deregulation of the sector, saving foreign exchange and potentially earning more from the oil and gas industry.”
But Lawan said the lawmakers were concerned about the various agitations and protests across the country, a development that necessitated his discussion with Buhari.
He said, “Many of us are very concerned with the recent agitations, protests and many citizens were so concerned, our constituents across the country are very worried that the Federal Government will remove the petroleum subsidy. And for us as legislators representing the people, this must be of interest to us.
“And we’ve just finished our recess, we had gone home to our constituencies and senatorial districts. We felt the pulse of our people. And I found it necessary to visit Mr President, as the leader of our government and our leader in the country, to discuss this particular issue of concern to Nigerians. I’m happy to inform Nigerians that Mr President never told anyone that the petroleum subsidy should be removed.
“I know, and I agree that the subsidy is hefty. But I think we must never transfer the burden to the citizens. We need to look at the quoted figure of maybe 100 million litres that people claim we’re consuming. Is it real? I mean, is it either under recoveries or subsidy? Is it 100 million litres per day? How on earth are we consuming that?
“We need to look at this critically and see how we can find the truth. This is because I am not convinced that within the boundaries of Nigeria, we are consuming 100 million litres. Probably neighbouring countries may benefit from this. Can’t we do something about it?”
Asked what will happen next since the 2022 budget does not provide for subsidy, Lawan said, “No, I’m not going to speculate on that. But I’m telling you, what I know from my discussions with Mr President, and I don’t want to go beyond that kind of understanding.
“He didn’t tell anybody that we should remove petroleum subsidies. And those of us who represent the people know how people are already stressed over and over again, this is going to kill everyone if people don’t say what we know is going to be too much for them.”
“So, I want to commend Mr President that he didn’t order anybody to say that petroleum subsidy will be removed, even though we know it’s a burden. So it’s now our task, as an administration, we must find a solution. Let’s go and lock ourselves somewhere,” he added.