ATTEMPT by President Goodluck Jonathan to woo the 109 senators and 360 House of Representatives members to support his government’s planned fuel subsidy removal has reportedly failed, as the meeting called by the presidency to discuss the issue of subsidy removal among other pressing national issues ended in a deadlock on Wednesday.
The Senate, through its spokesman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, had used the occasion to deny a report that the lawmakers moved to pass a vote of no confidence in the president, adding that there was no iota of truth in the report.
Senator Abaribe said, “come to think of it, no confidence vote tradition only applies in a parliamentary system of government and not in a presidential system as practised in Nigeria.”
Sources at the meeting informed the Nigerian Tribune that President Jonathan, who set the tone of the meeting, told the lawmakers that the main reason for the parley was to discuss the issue of fuel subsidy removal with them and the need for them to support the policies of his government.
Sources also told the Nigerian Tribune that while calling on the lawmakers to support the fuel subsidy removal, he told them that “if the fuel subsidy is not removed, Nigeria may collapse in the next 15 years.”
President Jonathan had forwarded to the National Assembly "2012-2015 Medium Term Fiscal Framework and Medium Term Expenditure Framework" which contained the contentious fuel subsidy removal policy of his government and the document is yet to be debated.
The president, in the document, had posited that "a major component of the policy of fiscal consolidation is government's intent to phase out the fuel subsidy beginning from the 2012 fiscal year. This will free up about N1.2 trillion in saving, part of which can be deployed into providing safety nets for poor segments of the society to ameliorate the effects of the subsidy removal.”
However, sources at the meeting revealed that the president also briefed the lawmakers about the challenges being faced by the Federal Government on the issue of Boko Haram, noting that the dimension of insecurity now was not like before. He was said to have solicited the support of everybody in the country in fighting the Boko Haram.
At the meeting, Nigerian Tribune learnt that the Senate President, Senator David Mark, pointedly told the president that Nigerians were not in support of the subsidy removal, and reportedly asked the president to expose the cabal that was feeding fat on the subsidy, since the government claimed it knew its members.
The Senate president, it was further learnt, asked the president to first tackle the problems of insecurity in the country, particularly the Boko Haram threat to national security, before anything.
According to one of the sources, “the Senate president was very blunt in his submission to Mr President. He told him point blank that subsidy is the only thing Nigerians are enjoying from the government and phasing it out may cause crisis in the country.”