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Uproar in House as Kachikwu Defends Fuel Price Increase

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Tuesday, May 17th, 2016
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The House of Representatives was in an uproar yesterday following a protest by members of the minority Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the recent increase in the price of petrol.

The protest which stalled proceedings of the special session summoned by the leadership of the chamber to address the sundry issues bordering on the recent removal of oil subsidy and the increase in the pump price of petroleum from N86.50 to N145 per litre.

The PDP lawmakers stopped the proceedings at the chamber as they in unison chanted protest songs calling on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to reverse the decision on the fuel pump price increase and proffer palliatives to cushion the effect on Nigerians.

Trouble started when Speaker Dogara, at the beginning of the session yesterday called on the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, to move a motion to admit the Minister of State for petroleum, Ibe Kachukwu into the hallowed chamber. The motion was seconded by the Deputy majority leader, Buba Jubril. This was ostensibly to brief the members of parliament on the reason for government’s decision last week to remove fuel subsidy and pump price increase from N86.50 to N145.

However, the motion was greeted by shouts of “nay, nay, nay” by members of PDP when the speaker sought the opinion of the whole House on whether the chamber should admit the Petroleum Minister to brief the parliament on the matter or not.

Several attempts by the Deputy Speaker, Sulaimon Yussuff Lason, to sue for peace on the floor ignited further shouting bouts by the protesting PDP members who were seen waving the Nigerian national flag.

In the heat of the melee, the deputy speaker along with the majority leader as well as the minority leader and the chief whip proceeded to confer with the speaker at the dais.

Several other All Progressives Congress (APC) members including the Spokesman of the House Abdulrazak Namdas and his deputy, Jonathan Gaza, were also sighted frantically conferring with Dogara at the dais.

It was at the end of this drama that the minority leader moved a motion seeking an executive session of the House, a development which saw the chamber going into a closed-door session.

At the resumed session, the House yesterday yielded the floor to Kachukwu who fielded questions on the rationale for the subsidy removal and the increase from N86.50 to N145 per litre of petrol.

He explained that the sale of petrol at the price range would help to get all the nation’s refineries working by 2018, and the nation to begin exportation of refined petroleum products by 2019.

Kachikwu boasted that the new price regime has gone into effect, and that “the market has stabilised in matter of days, in terms of product availability, the queues have virtually disappeared, it is expected that smuggling and diversion will diminish substantially.”

And with barely 48 hours to the commencement of the national strike to protest against the increase, operatives of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) yesterday in Abuja met with some labour leaders, petroleum marketers and other stakeholders in the sector.

Those invited to the parley included the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, his Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Bobboi Kaigama, the General Secretary of the NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson and other labour leaders.

Besides, the House of Representatives says it is set to hold a stakeholders conference on a new version of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The decision is predicated on the inability of the executive to forward a new version of the PIB to the National Assembly.

The summit, according to the House in a statement yesterday, will collate suggestions on the new bill that will be presented for legislation by the House.

On the ‘invitation’ to labour leaders the NLC President, Wabba told The Guardian that the meeting was a routine one and an avenue to pledge adequate security during the duration of the protest.

He said: “Yes, we were invited by the DSS. We were not the only ones that were invited to the parley. There were petroleum marketers and other stakeholders in the sector. The DSS told us that they were ready to provide security during the protest and strike. They also said they are determined that the protest and strike are not hijacked by those who may want to perpetuate mischief and other activities that are not on our agenda.”

The meeting slated for 3:00 p.m. yesterday at the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir, was postponed to around 6:00 p.m. because of the invitation to the labour leaders by the DSS, which ended around 4:00p.m.

Also, the scarcity of aviation fuel, which necessitated the cancellation of flights throughout the country yesterday, prevented some leaders getting to Abuja yesterday in time for the meeting.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) has expressed support for the decision of the Federal Government to remove subsidy on petrol. The association said in Abuja yesterday that the deregulation of petrol would lead to product availability.

A statement by the National President of the association, Kassim Bataiya, stated that he had consulted with all national officers and zonal chairmen of the association immediately after the policy was announced and a consensus was reached in support of the policy.

The summit, according to the House in a statement yesterday, will collate suggestions on the new bill that will be presented for legislation by the House.

Dogara had early this year announced that the chamber was drafting its own version of the bill as a result of failure by the executive to forward its proposed version of the law.

Consequently, the House, in furtherance of its commitment to ensure the passage of an appropriate legal framework for the management and development of the petroleum industry has proposed a National Stakeholders Workshop on Petroleum Industry Reform, scheduled to hold from 13 to 15, June 2016, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

The primary objective of this workshop, according to the statement is to bring all stakeholders in the industry together to afford them the opportunity of discussing relevant issues pertaining to the reform of the petroleum industry and contributing to the development of an appropriate legal framework for petroleum industry reform.

It is expected that the deliberations at the workshop will enhance the quality of any bill that will in due course be considered by the House, and enhance the quality of debate thereto and hopefully facilitate its smooth passage.

‘’For the facilitators, participants, and the Nigerian public and particularly, members of the National Assembly, the workshop provides a unique opportunity to learn more about the Nigerian petroleum industry, how it works, why reform has failed in the past, and why it must not fail this time”, the statement noted.



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