culled from CHANNELS.
House of Representatives held an emergency plenary meeting today, in which they put forth a motion calling for the suspension of the removal of fuel subsidy, a controversial policy that has sparked nationwide protests and outrage.
In the meeting, which was broadcast live, representatives, most of whom spoke in support of the motion, criticised the Federal Government’s decision to remove the subsidy, with Hon. Khadija Ibrahim calling it a “harsh and rash decision”.
The decision to pull the subsidy, which was made official on 1 January 2012 and announced by fuel regulatory agency PPPRA, caused a hike in fuel prices and transport fares and urged millions of Nigerians into streets in cities across the country and the world, protesting against the policy.
There was a divide at the meeting as well, with a majority of the Representatives taking the stand of the people, while 13 representatives spoke in support of the government policy. Both sides offering heated, passionate arguments.
Lagos State representative Hon. Femi Gbajamila, speaking in support of the subsidy removal suspension argued that it was morally, legally and economically unacceptable to remove the subsidy at this time.
Despite assurances from President Goodluck Jonathan during his State of the Nation address, in which he called for understanding and promised deregulation will not only save the nation from economic doom, but also aid in the building of better infrastructure as well as keep corruption in check, some Representatives were still wary.
Hon. Gbajabiamila said it was impossible to believe the economy would crash because of the subsidy and faulted the President’s decision to remove fuel subsidy, saying he was spiting the “one per cent cabal at the expense of 99 per cent Nigerians”.
Struggling masses of oil-rich Nigeria has decried the immediate spike in fuel prices as filling stations nationwide swapped the N65 price tag for N140 or more. Protests broke out nationwide, with many calling the policy “callous and insensitive”.
Palliatives, like the provision of 1,600 buses, which the President said will aid the launch of “a robust mass transit interviention programme to bring down the cost of transportation across the country” has done little to appease the disgruntled public.
“You cannot give me something that is mine and call it a palliative,” Hon. Gbajabiamila said to loud applause from his colleagues.
The Lagos state representative took the stance of the people, and so did Hon. Aminu Suleiman of Kano State who supported the motion of suspension and called on the House to “rescue Nigerians from further hardship”.
Hon. Iriase of Edo State, also speaking for the motion, likened fuel subsidy removal to “stoking the fire of insecurity” and warned that “it will be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back”.
On the other side of the divide, representatives speaking in support of the subsidy removal argued that suspending the policy will only suspend the pains Nigerians have to endure.
The representatives who spoke against the motion were in the minority and were greeted by loud jeering when they took turns to speak. However, they forged ahead doggedly, insisting that the policy, while unpopular, is the right decision to make.
They pointed out that while their opposing colleagues do not support the subsidy removal, they only asked for a suspension and not a complete reinstatement of the policy, which they say is proof the subsidy scheme is faulty and riddled with corruption.
Hon. Yakubu Barde, while “sympathising” with the Nigerian people, says past leaders should be held responsible for not taking the bold step and “tackling corruption”.
Barde was not alone in commending Jonathan’s “bold” step, he was joined by Hon. Arua Arunsi who argued that “suspending subsidy removal is only suspending the evil day”.
“At the end of the day, the President could be a hero,” Hon. Arunsi said, commending the President for his courage.
Rivers’ state representative Sokonte Davies joined the suspension opposers, saying “we cannot continue to subusidise corruption.”
The opposition argued that the President showed bravery is taking away the subsidy that up until now has gone towards “lining the pockets of cabals” as Davies put it.
Despite their arguments in favour of the subsidy removal, the 13 opposing representatives failed to weaken the prayers of the motion to suspend the removal of the subsidy.
Labour union groups are also set to embark on an indefinite strike on Monday, 9 January 2011.