Senate Debates FG's Fiscal Framework; Advises Govt On Fuel Subsidy Removal, Over-Bloated Bureaucracy

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The Senate in Abuja on Tuesday debated the 2012 to 2015 medium-term fiscal framework with special emphasis on the issue of fuel subsidy removal.

President Goodluck Jonathan sent the document to the Senate for approval in October.

One of the key issues highlighted in the document is government’s intent to phase out fuel subsidy in 2012.

Contributing to the debate, Wilson Ake (PDP-Rivers), said that the document was well thought out and well-focused with the intention of controlling activities of government, especially in fiscal terms.

Ake said if the document was well implemented, there would be a great departure from what obtained in the past and the economy would improve.

He, however, expressed concern that the issue of job creation was not well articulated in the document and urged the government to spell out how many jobs it intended to create within the next four years.

In his contribution, Babayo Gamawa (PDP-Bauchi) said Nigerians were still not satisfied with explanations on how the removal of fuel subsidy would impact positively on their lives.

“We need to enlighten our electorate on how subsidy removal will impact on their lives. I am not in support of the subsidy removal in anyway. ”

Dahiru Kuta (PDP-Niger) advocated that government should adopt a gradual approach of removing petroleum subsidy, considering that a drastic removal would affect Nigerians negatively.

“We want to appeal to the government to take a second look at the approach and if they must remove subsidy, it should be done over a period of time.

Olubunmi Adetunbi (ACN-Ekiti) had attempted to stall debate on the document by pointing out that the document could not be effectively debated on the floor until the investigation on fuel subsidy was concluded.

Reacting to the suggestion, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said that it was not in the character of the Senate to sit on vital documents for a long time.

Isa Galaudu (PDP-Kebbi), however, drew the attention of the senators away from the issue of subsidy to what he described as inconsistent and contradictory aspects, especially regarding non-oil revenue.

“ I do not understand why in 2011 you have N2.1 trillion revenue from non-oil and in 2015 it jumped to more than 100 per cent to 4.6.

“In terms of oil revenue, it is N6.8 trillion in 2011 but merely N7.2 trillion in 2015 and you can see it is just barely 10 per cent increase. How do you justify this?”

Senate President David Mark, while referring the paper to the Joint Committees on Finance, Appropriation and National Planning, said the content of the paper was not cast in stone.

“The paper is just a framework at this stage and the figures there are preliminary figures they are not fixed.”

Mark urged the committees to look critically at the difference of N170 billion in capital budget between 2011 and 2012, as well as the issue of federal bureaucracy.

“I am a bit worried that the capital increase is just N170 billion from 2011-2012. How will just a mere increase of N170 billion really be a projection.

“Federal bureaucracy is over bloated. How do we ensure that this is discontinued? In fact we should make every effort to reduce the federal bureaucracy at the moment, we simply cannot sustain it.”