The federal government will remove the controversial fuel subsidy anytime this month, a credible source confided in LEADERSHIP yesterday.
The source also revealed that the president may appoint former Nigerian high commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade, as the chairman of a committee that will oversee the utilisation of funds that will be saved from the subsidy removal. Former minister of works, Gen. Mamman Kontagora (rtd), may also be named vice-chairman of the committee.
Though details of the policy were sketchy at press time, LEADERSHIP gathered that the committee would comprise representatives of interest groups – the Nigeria Labour Congress, youth groups, the Trade Union Congress TUC, NUPENG, PENGASSAN, ASUU and other stakeholders.
However, the proposed panel will not operate in the same manner as the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund, PTF, of the Abacha days, as the funds will not be made available to it.
The President is expected to meet political party leaders, religious leaders and other interest groups this week as a prelude to announcing the subsidy removal.
But controversy has continued to trail federal government’s decision to remove the subsidy as most of the stakeholders have urged by the government to suspend the issue on the grounds that the issue is volatile and premature.
Members of the national Assembly had also informed President Goodluck Jonathan that the country was not ready for the policy, saying that what he should address was the issue of security challenges, especially the activities of the Boko Haram sect in the North-East
But a source confided in LEDERSHIP last night that Jonathan and his cabinet might have decided to go ahead .
According to him, subsidy removal will be part of the 2012 budget being put in place by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The source added that the cash from this removal would be ploughed into reviving the country’s decaying infrastructure and also construct the railway system and roads.
Jonathan may have been emboldened to take the decision by the legal advice on the constitutional clauses which empower the Executive to withdraw the subsidy.
When asked if the action of the government might not provoke the lawmakers , the source said: “Whatever is the decision of the National Assembly on the withdrawal of fuel subsidy is advisory.
“Go through the 1999 Constitution, you will discover that the government is constitutionally empowered to take such a decision.
“Section 16(2) of the Constitution gives the government the backing to withdraw fuel subsidy because it is purely economic matter.
“The section reads in part: ‘The state shall direct its policy towards ensuring (a) the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development; (b) that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.
“That the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group ...”