Senate to monitor kerosene subsidy implementation
THE Senate Wednesday charged relevant committees of the National Assembly to strictly oversight subsidy provision on kerosene to ensure its full implementation as well as availability and accessibility of the product. In a situation where such oversight proves difficult to achieve, it recommended that the entire subsidy be scrapped.
The recommendation was contained in the report of the Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning; Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation on 2015-2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), which was finally passed by the Upper Chamber.
The report also proposed a cut in the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) allocation from its N102.50 billion to N21.03 billion in 2015 budget due to fall in the price of crude.
Meanwhile, it has requested that the details of all SURE-P projects to be executed be attached to the annual budget estimate for approval by the National Assembly.
The Senate also moved against the Service Wide Votes. This is a major component of annual budget of Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) earmarked for contingencies and approved by the National Assembly but without projects attached to it. The report therefore recommended that the details of N360.94 billion in the Service Wide Votes under the 2015 budget be produced to enable National Assembly see areas to apply any necessary cut.
It kicked against domiciling the N63 billion Amnesty Programme Fund in a special account when there is a ministry that is charged with the responsibility of administering the amnesty. In fact, the committee called for immediate discontinuation of the account that started during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
The Senate said: “There is no reason to include the N63 billion meant for Presidential Amnesty Programme under the vote when we have a Ministry for the Niger Delta. Accordingly, this should be moved.
“Also, N22 billion provision for internal operations of the armed forces should be made under relevant ministry. All sums provided as arrears of pension and gratuity should be reclassified from Service Wide Votes to relevant heads. Henceforth, this general provision should be discontinued.”
In reaction to the decline in crude oil prices, the joint committee recommended a downward review of subsidy payment for Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) from N200 billion to N100 billion and Kerosene from N91.08 to N45.52 billion in 2015.
While upholding the crude oil production of 2,278.2 million barrels per day, 2,327.1 million barrels per day and 2,406.7 million barrels per day for 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively as initially proposed by the executive arm of government, the total recurrent (Non-Debt) expenditure was reduced from N2,616.1 trillion to N2,584.08 trillion.
On the other hand, the total Capital Expenditure was increased from N633.53 billion to N700.78 billion while the total Statutory Transfers was reduced from N411.85 billion to N363.27 billion. The total non-oil revenue was increased from N3,539.07 trillion to N4,024.11 trillion.
In its conclusion, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led committee expressed fear over implementation of the 2015 proposed expenditure programme amidst several constraints.
The panel said: “Implementing the 2015 proposed expenditure programme of the Federal Government in a challenging environment of serious constraints in the form of dwindling revenues, pressure to fulfill campaign promises and the imperative of fighting insurgency and other security challenges, is already a Herculean task”.
According to the Senate, it will take prudence, pragmatism, cooperation and collaboration between the executive and the legislature to effectively work out measures towards achieving the 2015 budget.
But for the President of the Senate, David Mark, it goes beyond collaboration to making sacrifices by every sector of the government.
Meanwhile, opposition against the screening and confirmation of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro as a minister has continued to increase in the Senate.
So far, two petitions dated February 12 and February 17 respectively, have been forwarded to Mark against Obanikoro’s nomination by President Goodluck Jonathan to represent Lagos State in the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
It was not clear however if that account for the cancelation of the screening and confirmation exercise of the eight ministerial nominees till next Tuesday.
Before commencement of plenary yesterday, nominees, which comprised Obanikoro, Patricia Akwashiki and Joel Danlami Ikenya, Augustine Akobundu, Fidelis Nwankwo, Hauwa’u Lawan and Kenneth Kobani , were already in the Senate for the screening. A few minutes before plenary, however, reports emerged that the exercise has been shifted to another date.
Speaking later, spokesman of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Babafemi Ojudu, said there were two petitions against Obanikoro’s nomination. The petitions, he said, have been forwarded Mark.
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