The Senate is to debate fuel price increase next week.
A source close to the leadership of the Senate said the debate “will afford senators to tell their constituents where they stand on the burning issue”.
He said: “Surely, we are going to discuss it when we reconvene next week. Some Senators are, no doubt, agitated about the way and manner the increase was announced while some others are bound to support the new policy.
“But it is necessary that we discuss the issue so as to let our constituents know where we stand. I can tell you, as explosive as the debate might be, the leadership of the Senate will not be opposed to the idea of debating the matter.”
He noted that although the Presidency briefed the leadership of the National Assembly on the need to deregulate the petroleum downstream, “before those who attended the briefing could leave the venue of the briefing, the announcement was made”.
The Chairman Senate Committee on Police Affairs Abu Ibrahim and chair Committee on Local and Foreign Debts Chairman Shehu Sani, sharply disagreed over the necessity for the new price regime.
Senator Ibrahim (Katsina South) backed the new pump price of N145. Senator Sani (Kaduna Central) insisted that the increase would come with a lot of social implications.
Ibrahim said: “Every Nigerian knows that fuel price increase will eventually come. Everybody knows that the country cannot continue to sustain a corrupt petroleum product regime. It may be a little difficult in the beginning but after some time things will be better.”
He added: “Nigeria is still the cheapest when you look at the countries around us. We need to explain to Nigerians that the new policy is for the good of the country. To leave fuel price as it is may be populist but we have to accept the inevitable. I was opposed to fuel price increase before because I believed that the money will be squandered but now we have a government that can use the money for the benefit of Nigerians and in the best interest of the country.
“I believe we have accepted the inevitable. There is no subsidy in the budget; where are we going to get the money? Our subsidy was actually subsidising other countries. The countries around us are still paying higher prices including Ghana, Angola and Kenya. So I believe that it is rational, it is for the benefit of Nigerians and it is long overdue.”
Sani said: “I represent Kaduna Central Senatorial District and I am also from a long history of political movement. We are opposed to any policy that will inflict hardship on the people. We have been consistent over the years. The same oil that we are told is no longer being sold as it used to, why can’t it be made available to the people.
“Increasing fuel price comes with a lot of social problems. If the price of petroleum goes up so also will be school fees, cost of foodstuff, medical bill and others.
“Increasing fuel price incites social discontent. I cannot be in the street some two or three years ago opposing the increase in the price of petroleum products only for me to now justify it. I am opposed to it because I can see a lot of influence of capitalist world. They wanted Naira devalued, they wanted the refineries sold. Now they are pushing for fuel price increase.
“If we are going to address the problem, why can’t we wait until the refineries we’re going to build come on stream. Our bureaucrats are disconnected from the reality on the ground.”
Asked if he would join any protest that might be engendered by the new fuel price regime, he said he would rather deploy his energy to oppose the increase on the floor of the Senate.
Sani added: “You have to insist on your right. Whether there is subsidy or no subsidy, the fact remains that Nigerians do not want fuel price increase.”