President Muhammedu Buhari has approved the suspension of the removal of fuel subsidy that was earlier scheduled for June 2022, until further notice.
This is even as the federal government has said it will propose 18 months extension to the National Assembly for the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) that was meant to kickstart this February.
Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, disclosed this to State House correspondents on Tuesday after meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa.
Recall that President Buhari had on 16th August 2021 signed the Petroleum Industry Bill into law.
According to Sylva, the suspension is to give all the stakeholders time to ensure that the implementation is carried out in a manner that guarantees that all necessary modalities are in place to cushion the effect of the PMS subsidy removal.
He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has agreed to an extension of the statutory period for the implementation of the removal of subsidy on petrol (Premium Motor Spirit, PMS) in accordance with extant laws.
“However, following extensive consultations with all key stakeholders within and outside the government, it has been agreed that the implementation period for the removal of the subsidy should be extended.
“This extension will give all the stakeholders time to ensure that the implementation is carried out in a manner that guarantees that all necessary modalities are in place to cushion the effect of the PMS subsidy removal in line with prevailing economic realities.’’
On the likely effects of the subsidy removal on the livelihoods of the poor, Sylva said: “The President assures that his administration will continue to put in place all necessary measures to protect the livelihoods of all Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable.’’
On the fuel queues that have resurfaced, he advised Nigerians to stop hoarding fuel nor engage in panic buying as the government has no plans to remove subsidies.
We don’t intend to remove the subsidy now. That is why we are making this announcement,” he said.
On the possible legal implications after the assent to the PIA by President Buhari, the minister said: “We also see the legal implications. There is six months provision in the PIA which will expire in February and that is why we are coming out to say that before the expiration of this time, as I said earlier, we will engage the legislature.
We believe that this will go to the legislature, we are applying for some amendment of the law so that we would still be within the law.
“We are proposing an 18months extension but what the National Assembly is going to approve is up to them. We would approve an 18 months extension and then it is up to the National Assembly to look at it and pass the amendment as they see it.”
Asked if the suspension has something to do with the 2023 elections, he said: “Of course not. As I told you, first it’s just the human face of the government, Mr. President especially wants certain structures to be in place.
And he insisted if we want to remove subsidies, we must make sure that we put every measure in place to protect the suffering masses of Nigeria. That is the President’s insistence. So we are now taking steps to ensure that these processes are in place.
And this now gets into the labor engagement that you are talking about. We are already talking with labor. And our discussion with labour is also around these palliatives and mitigations. So all these will have to come together. That’s why we decided at this time, especially since we are running against time, with the legal timeframe approaching very quickly, we thought we should come to you and let you know that we are taking steps to amend the law and to ensure that we are within the law.”
On the possibility of gradual increase, which is not on the table right now, the minister said: “Gradual or increment in whatever guise is not on the table.
“We are going to see how to rejig the law, this is not going to be the only amendment to the PIA. A few months ago, the President already proposed an amendment to the law.”
By Jonathan Nda-Isaiah