Minister of State for Finance Yerima Ngama said on Wednesday that the Federal Government had spent N518 billion so far on fuel subsidy out of the N888 billion appropriated in the 2012 budget.
The Minister disclosed this to the State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Namadi Sambo at the State House.
Ngama, who briefed the Correspondents alongside his Information counterpart, Mr Labaran Maku, said N451 billion was paid for subsidy from January to March this year.
He said the NNPC made a claim of N50 billion for arrears of April while another N17 billion was cleared for payment by the Debt Management Office (DMO) and CBN.
Ngama said the ministry, however, discovered after releasing the N481 billion that part of the fund was arrears for 2011.
He said following the revelation, the ministry suspended further payment on subsidy and set up a committee to verify the claim and the processes.
``When we heard it was for arrears, of course, from that time we were actually on notice to put a halt and that is why in May when we had the last FAAC meeting for April, the claim by NNPC of N50 billion was disapproved by FAAC.
``Although they have deducted, FAAC did not approve, which means the stand of the ministry is that we need to really look at the figures and that is why in collaboration with the private sector we set up the committee.
``So, If you add N50 billion to the N451 billion, you have N501 billion. And as at that time, there was N17 billion claims through the PPPRA that has already been cleared by DMO with CBN, you can't recall that back so you add it, this is the total we have paid as subsidy.
``So if you deduct that from the total budget, we have only N370 billion left out of the budget for the payment of subsidy. ’’
Ngama said that since the committee had completed the verification exercise, government would resume the payment of subsidy next month.
He said the report of the verification exercise would be made public in due course.
Speaking in the same vein, Maku stressed the need for government to revisit its plan for total deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector and complete subsidy removal.
He said the removal of subsidy was the surest way to end corruption and wastages in the sector.
Maku said Nigerians should know that subsidy was ``an albatross and like a bag of sugar on the floor that would always attract ants’’.
``I hope Nigerians are also getting to know now that the subsidy regime in the first instance is an albatross in the neck of the nation and that is why the President looking at this decided that we need a reform at the system to take away the subsidy, deregulate the sector, and call off the market.
``So long as that bag of sugar is lying on the floor call subsidy, there is no warranty that abuses will not take place.
``Let stop the market, let stop this subsidy regime and let's save this money and target it at those who really need it which is the population.
``But we all shouted him down, we all shouted ourselves down, and now we are coming back every day to the same subject.’’
Maku said Council also endorsed a Memo from the Ministry of Water Resources for Nigeria to co-sponsor the project for the transfer of water to Lake Chad to save the lake from extinction.