There may be no provision of funds for fuel subsidy in the 2012 budget proposal to be presented by President Jonathan to the National Assembly tomorrow, sources at the Finance Ministry and the legislature told Daily Trust in Abuja at the weekend. Jonathan has been campaigning for support to end fuel subsidies so as to free up more than N1 trillion yearly for development projects. But he has been facing stiff resistance from labour unions, civil society groups and federal lawmakers.
He is due to present the 2012 appropriations bill to a joint sitting of the National Assembly tomorrow. A Finance ministry source privy to the drafting of the budget proposal told Daily Trust in Abuja that the document would not provide any funds for subsidies, in line with the president’s plans.
This could mean that the government would abolish fuel subsidies by the end of this month, a decision that would send petrol prices shooting up to about N150 per litre from N65 per litre.
The total expenditure for 2012 would be about N4.8 trillion, out of which capital projects would guzzle up a higher percentage compared to in the 2011 budget, the source said.
“There is no funding for fuel subsidy in the estimated N4.8 trillion that President Goodluck Jonathan would president to the National Assembly on Tuesday,” the source said, on condition of anonymity.
Sources at the National Assembly also say the budget document due to be laid tomorrow contains no funds provision for fuel subsidies.
“The president has chosen to use executive fiat to end subsidies on petroleum products,” one of the sources said.
No Presidency or Finance ministry official was available for comments on the fuel subsidy matter last night.
At the budget presentation tomorrow, Jonathan is expected to also lay out his plan for utilisation of the monies to be saved from subsidy removal and for palliative measures against the inevitable effects.
Experts say even if the president does not provide funds for subsidy in the budget, the National Assembly may decide to include such funding in the bill though the president may still decline to assent to it.
The House of Representatives has already voted against ending subsidies, but the Senate is yet to take a decision. In arriving at its position, the House said subsidy removal was “premature” and that government could explore other sources to finance the budget.
Some House members told Daily Trust at the weekend that the President was still lobbying them to change their minds
“Members have been meeting with the president in batches at the presidential villa since Monday last week. On Monday, 15 people went to the villa for a breakfast meeting with him. And many other batches of 15 have gone there some for lunch or dinner or breakfast,” a member who attended one of the meetings said.
The president has similarly met with leaders of the political parties and civil society groups to hammer on his position. He is also due to meet with labour leaders at the State House in Abuja today.
But those meetings appeared not to have generated enough support for the president’s plans.
At the meeting with the parties last Monday, leaders told the president to forget the idea. But General Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) refused to attend the meeting despite pleadings by a presidential aide, Daily Trust learnt.
Sources at the meeting said the president and Finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala spoke at length on why the opposition parties should back the controversial policy. But ANPP chairman Ogbonnaya Onu cautioned against subsidy removal.
Also, civil society activists at a meeting with the president on Friday opposed subsidy removal. They told the president that if he goes ahead, they would lead a nationwide protest.
Meanwhile, the Northern Speakers’ Forum (NSF) said that for any removal of fuel subsidies to be legitimate, the approval of state houses of assembly must be obtained first. At its 22nd conference, the forum which met through Saturday and yesterday at the newly completed Nasarawa State House of Assembly complex in Lafia, held deliberations on various national issues, with special attention to peace, unity and general development of the North.
In a communiqué at the end of the meeting, the forum, led by Kebbi speaker Aminu Musa Habib who represented forum chairman and Borno speaker Goni Ali Modu, said the Federal Government must consider consultation with the people by taking fuel subsidy removal matter through the state assemblies.
“Federal Government is called upon to subject the issue of oil subsidy removal to public opinion through the approval of each state house of assembly with two-thirds majority,” the 10-point communiqué said. The speakers also urged the Federal Government to improve the electric power to textile industries and that they should be granted tax relief and interest-free loans as incentives to resuscitate them.
They also called for the completion of Mambilla power project, Kashimbila Dam project in Taraba State, Ajaokuta Steel Company, as well as abandoned road projects in parts of the North.