Senate passes N161.6bn supplementary budget for fuel subsidy

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The Senate on Thursday passed the supplementary appropriation bill of N161.6 billion. The amount will serve as payment for fuel subsidy to oil marketers for 2012.

President Goodluck Jonathan had on Tuesday sent a request to the National Assembly to approve an additional N161.6 billion to ensure steady supply of petroleum products during the festive season.

Senate President, Sen. David Mark, however, decried the high level of corruption being perpetrated under the fuel subsidy scheme.

He urged the Federal Government to stop the fuel subsidy if it was unable to stop the high level of corruption being perpetrated under the scheme.

“It is not a secret anymore that there is so much corruption in the fuel subsidy industry in whatever system they are adopting.

“The nation must make a decision now, whether to continue this or to stop it.

“The nation must make that decision sooner than later because we cannot carry on this way.

“If they can’t eliminate and stop the corruption in the system, then, the other alternative will be to stop the whole exercise of the fuel subsidy.

“We must take the one that is easier and the one that will bring less pain to Nigerians,” he said.

Mark commended the lawmakers for supporting the quick passage of the supplementary appropriation, in the interest of the masses.

He said the proposal should have been forwarded in good time to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians.

“They should have anticipated that there was going to be a shortfall when they first made this presentation at the beginning of the year.

“That did not happen. We are now shouldered with the responsibility of this additional approval.

“We have done so in the best interest of this country,” Mark added.

The approval followed a motion by the Senate Deputy Leader, Sen. Abdul Ningi that the supplementary budget be given accelerated passage “in view of the emergency nature of the bill”.

All the Senators expressed support for the passage of the bill saying that it would alleviate the suffering of Nigerians, ensure peace and stability of the nation.

Sen. Smart Adeyemi faulted the national economic team for the delay in the presentation of its request for additional funds.

He, however, said: “As representatives of the people, we have to support this request because it would improve the wellbeing of the masses.”

In his contribution, Sen. Ayogu Eze( PDP-Enugu), hailed the federal government for acknowledging that there was large scale corruption in the subsidy scheme.

He urged Nigerians to support the government’s effort to address the graft in the oil subsidy regime.

“It’s a challenge for Nigerians to decide whether to allow few individuals to continue to feed fat on our commonwealth or to stop this process that encourages corruption.”

Sen. Ahmed Lawan (ANPP- Yobe), urged the Senate to henceforth scrutinise government expenditure before the considering requests for supplementary appropriation.

“We need to be very thorough and insist on getting relevant information in good time before we do supplementary budgets.

“They talk about forensic audit but we have not seen the report. There is no evidence to show that we require N161.6 billion.

“I support the passage of this bill for the sake of my people,” he said.

Sen. Gbenga Ashafa (ACN- Lagos), appealed to the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream),to conclude investigation into the management of the fuel subsidy.

“While I support this passage, I want this Senate to ensure that investigation into the fuel subsidy is completed because Nigerians need to know,” Ashafa stressed.

Sen. Nkechi Nwaogu (PDP-Abia) blamed the opposition political parties for protesting against government’s move to totally remove the oil subsidy.

According to her, the corruption being witnessed in the subsidy would have been nipped in the bud if the people have supported the attempt to scrap the subsidy.

“It’s not the fault of the President, or is it the fault of PDP but it’s the fault of the opposition parties which would not allow the total removal of fuel subsidy.”

The supplementary budget is for the payment of the outstanding arrears resulting from the forensic audit exercise of the fuel subsidy.

This is to ensure a steady supply of petroleum products during the festive season, according to President Jonathan.

(NAN)

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