FG says no plan to remove fuel subsidy

•Domestic fuel consumption drops by 8 million litres daily •Bauchi to join oil producing states soon

THE Federal Government has said it has no plan to remove subsidy on fuel, contrary to speculations in some quarters.

This was made known on Thursday by Minister of State for Petroleum, Timpre Sylva, during the 2020 budget defence held at the instance of the joint Senate and House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream).

The minister also said that the Federal Government lacked the wherewithal to offset the $62billion outstanding debt on premium motor spirit (PMS) to marketers as well as the $9.6billion judgment debt to Process & Industrial Development (P&ID).

The minister said, “I want to say this government is not about to remove subsidy, because it is difficult. We believe as a government that our people are already going through a lot of suffering and we cannot, as a responsible government, heap other issue of petroleum price hike or removal of subsidy on Nigerians. “

The minister, who declined comment on the amount spent so far on fuel subsidy in 2019, however, reiterated the resolve of President Muhammadu Buhari led administration towards curtailing the smuggling of petroleum products to neighbouring countries.

“So, it (subsidy removal) is not on the cards at all. We are just looking at how we can manage it,” he said.

The minister further affirmed that Nigeria’s domestic fuel consumption level had reduced from over 60 million litres per day to 52 million litres per day, sequel to the closure of the country’s land borders.

Speaking on the outstanding debt to marketers, Sylva said, “If there is a law and you are sleeping and wake up today to say they must pay $62 billion, I will say sorry. No company will have $62 billion sleeping somewhere. $62 billion is a whole lot of money and I don’t think we could get $62 billion, but we can discuss with them.

“In the process, we are amending the Deepshore Act now and this is to be able to ameliorate some of the lacuna so that going forward, we will not miss some of these opportunities again,” Sylva said.

Speaking on the controversial $9.6 billion debt, the minister said certain preemptive measures had, so far, been taken to resolve the issue, adding that “we are fighting it and I believe in the end we will triumph. We will not pay that money they are asking for because I believe it’s fraudulent.”

The minister assured that the ministry, in collaboration with security agencies, is working towards curtailing the menace of oil theft, which, he said, cost the country billions of naira on a daily basis.

He also said work on the Port-Harcourt and Warri refineries would commence in January.

Speaking on the ongoing exploration operations of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Anambra and Bauchi states, Sylva said: “I wish it was in my power to declare any state oil producing. The oil has to be produced, we have to see it, then the state becomes oil producing. Nobody can deny any state of that status, if you are already producing then you will know that you are producing oil and cannot hide it.

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“At least we will be moving the oil from the state. You automatically become oil producing. It is not within the powers of the Ministry of Petroleum to designate any state oil producing.

“I have announced here today to you that Bauchi is on its way, but Bauchi cannot also count as oil producing yet, but we know that in a few years from now, Bauchi will definitely become an oil-producing state, because what we have found there, the reserves are in commercial quantity.

“I know that a lot of people think that it is a prospective basin especially for gas, but I don’t know exactly the status of Anambra Basin right now and I don’t think any production activity is going on in Anambra yet. Whenever there is oil production activity in Anambra State, they will become oil producing automatically.

“Sometimes you can find oil in a certain place, if it is not in commercial quantity, then, the people may not find it worthwhile. I don’t know what happened in Anambra basin but we will find out,” he said.

He also assured that the funding crisis trailing the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) natural gas pipeline project would be resolved next year.

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