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No plan to end fuel subsidy regime now – FG

…Gives conditions for subsidy removal

…Kachikwu assures NNPC has sufficient fuel, warns against panic buying

Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja & Gbenga Sodeinde, Ado Ekiti

The Buhari administration has declared that it has no immediate plan to abrogate the fuel subsidy regime in the country and has instead, given conditions for the removal of subsidy on petrol which include, the provision of alternative cushioning measures mutually agreed between all stakeholders in order to protect the economically vulnerable.

Finance Minister, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who disclosed this at a press briefing marking the end of the 2019 Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC, USA, on Sunday, said the Federal Government is yet to arrive at such measures.

Consequently, according to her, there is no immediate plan to remove fuel subsidy, contrary to speculations that have led to the emergence of fuel queues in some parts of the country.

Speaking against the backdrop of the position canvassed by the World Bank/IMF officials demanding the removal of the subsidy and the use of the resources generated to invest and develop the nation’s infrastructure, the minister confirmed that the administration has no plan for now to end the subsidy regime.

Hear her: “There is no imminent plan to remove fuel subsidy. We are here to discuss with the global community on various policy issues. One of the issues that always come up in the report, especially by the IMF as a corporate body is how we handle fuel subsidies.

IMF is saying fuel subsidies are better removed so that you can use the resources for other important sectors.

“In principle that is a fact. But, in Nigeria, we don’t have plans to remove fuel subsidy at this time because we have not yet designed buffers that can enable us remove fuel subsidy and provide cushions for our people. So there is no plan to remove fuel subsidy.

“We will be discussing with various groups. If we have to, what are the alternatives? We have not yet found viable alternatives. So we are not yet at the point of removing fuel subsidy.”

Also, the Finance minister revealed that the government’s delegation held discussions with World Bank officials with a view to taking a $1 billion loan for the development of the power sector.

“We met with the World Bank power sector team and discussed the way forward on the proposed $1 billion Nigeria performance based loan. We agreed to bring relevant MDAs together to ensure that we advance this in a timely manner.

“We will also discuss the country portfolio performance of Nigeria which currently stands at $9.8 billion with the Nigerian country team at the World Bank and how we could manage the portfolio for optimum results.”

“At the IMF meetings, the managing director requested for a mandate to pursue some negotiations with governors for temporary financing options for ensuring that the fund remains adequately resourced by maintaining the current resource envelope of the fund through borrowed resources.

This arose partly due to the delay in completing the 15th general review of quotas,” the minister added.

In a related development, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Sunday, assured Nigerians of sufficient Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol in the country.

Kachikwu, in an interview with newsmen in Lagos, said that the country had gone past the era of fuel scarcity and urged motorists to desist from panic buying.

“I can say that there shouldn’t be any reason for fuel scarcity, we have gone past the era of fuel scarcity. NNPC informed me when I made inquiries that they imported enough.

“Yesterday, I saw a few pockets of scarcity in Abuja, but I was told that it was Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) related distribution issues and it will be sorted out as soon as possible.

“So, it is not an issue of lack of sufficiency. I am told they have about 28 -day sufficiency two weeks ago, they presently have between 14 and 15-day product sufficiency,’’ he said.

The minister noted that the 28 -day sufficiency was okay based on 50 million litres daily consumption in the country.

“I don’t expect to see a scarcity; I just expect them to work hard over the next few days to deal with whatever logistic issue they have. I will be working with NNPC on that,’’ he added.

On queues building up in filling stations in Lagos and Abuja, he maintained that the country was wet enough to serve the needs of motorists.

“I haven’t visited Lagos cities, but the information I have is that there is enough product on ground and we should be able to deal with whatever it is.

The problem with fuel scarcity is that if you allow it to last for three days, then it builds up a life of its own. That is what I have enforced NNPC to do to make sure that it is resolved,’’ he said.

Kachikwu noted that it would had been a major issue for the country if there was insufficient product on ground, but assured that the NNPC would be able to resolve whatever the situation was in a few days.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Ekiti State, said it will on Monday begin a massive clampdown on petrol dealers hoarding or diverting products in the state.

The NSCDC, Ekiti State Command said it will not allow those it described as unscrupulous dealers to create artificial scarcity in the state over non-existent anticipation that the official pump price may increase.

Governor Kayode Fayemi last Friday issued a similar threat against some petrol dealers found to be hoarding fuel and compelled motorists to engage in panic buying.

The development had also caused resurfacing of long queues in filling stations across the state and hike in the pump price in some stations to as high as N160 per litre.

Speaking with journalists in Ado Ekiti on Sunday, the command’s Commandant, Mr. Solomon Iyamu, said he had instructed anti -vandal operatives to commence random checks on petrol stations and arrest those hoarding the product and subject people to hardship.

Iyamu, who spoke through the Command’s Public Relations Officer, Tolu Afolabi, added that the operation will begin by 8am on Monday.

“We are starting the operation on Monday and those sabotaging the system will be arrested and brought to justice. We realised that long queues and artificial scarcity had been created by some petrol dealers and we ready to address the issue.

“If we get to your petrol station and we find out that it has as high as 10, 000 litres of petrol in its pits, but the dealer is not selling, then he is liable and such person will face the law.

“We leant from good authority that very high number of our petrol stations are now hoarding the product. Some are also selling above N145 pet litre, these are the issues we will tackle squarely,” he stated.

The NSCDC boss urged motorists to offer useful information to the command, to help his men and officers in carrying out the operation.

He promised that the command will also strengthen its operation to prevent those who plan to divert products meant for Ekiti State to another state, thereby creating scarcity in the system.