Senate flays presidency, fuel marketers seek tax holiday

• Insists subsidy remains cancelled
• Lawmakers oppose rise in petrol price

The Senate yesterday condemned reports attributed to President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, suggesting that the failure to pay subsidy debts owed oil marketers was due to the chamber’s refusal to approve a loan request.

In a statement, the spokesman Aliu Sabi Abdullahi stressed that as far as the Senate was concerned, the Buhari administration cancelled the payment of subsidy on petroleum products since 2016, therefore the talk about any loan could not be true.

“The attention of the Senate has been drawn to a claim said to have been made by the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, during a meeting with stakeholders in the oil industry on the perennial fuel scarcity in the country, to the effect that the payment of debt owed oil marketers was being delayed because the National Assembly has not approved request presented to the legislature for loan meant for that purpose,” the statement notes.

The House said it wanted members of the public to know that no such request had been made.

“The Senate is aware that subsidy on petroleum has been cancelled by this administration. So, we wonder which payment we are talking about now. We call on Mallam Kyari to either prove his claim or retract it.

“Instead of resorting to false claims and shifting blame, both the executive and legislature should work together to solve this unnecessary fuel crisis which is making life more difficult for our people,” the statement reads.

A public hearing aimed at finding a solution to the scarcity is expected to take place today at the Senate.

Also, the National Assembly yesterday warned marketers of petroleum products against pushing for an increase in the price of petrol, saying such move amounted to blackmail.

The chairman of the Senate committee on petroleum (downstream), Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara) gave the reprimand, backed by his House of Representatives counterpart, Joseph Akinlaja (PDP, Ondo).

Marafa spoke during an assessment of some filling stations in Abuja where he disclosed that government had put in place measures to avert any further increase in the pump price of petrol beyond N145 per litre.

“We would find out if their demands are truly genuine. Note that the government is spending a lot of money on marketers. It is also subsidising the dollar for them to import fuel. The government is also spending a lot of money on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) through subsidy for fuel importation. So, nobody can blackmail anybody.”

He assured the citizens that a joint public hearing of the Senate and the House of Representatives committees on petroleum (downstream) would get to the root of the clamour by marketers for an increase in pump price.

Marafa blamed poor supply and hoarding for the persistent scarcity of fuel across the country. He was, however, optimistic the situation would end within three days.

Akinlaja added: “Before we came to Abuja, all of us went to our constituencies to carry out this kind of assessment. NNPC gave us an assurance that in the next few days, it would be over. We expect that in the next three days, the situation will improve.”

Some of the filling stations visited were Total, opposite Force Headquarters; Azman, on the same axis; Conoil, opposite NNPC Towers; and NIPCO and MRS, along Airport Road.

Meanwhile, marketers yesterday at a meeting set up by the Federal Government to resolve the crisis pleaded for a tax holiday to facilitate the importation of fuel into the country.

A source at the meeting, who pleaded anonymity, said the marketers agreed that the pump price should not be increased.

He said: “There is no planned increase in the fuel price. The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources said it should not be contemplated. None of us even wanted the price to rise. What we talked about is tax holidays and other things in that line.

“Also, all stakeholders have agreed to look inward and improve efficiency, so that we can cut down cost and resume our business. Nobody is concerned about any price increase.”