There was a rowdy session on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday when the All Progressives Congress lawmakers and their Peoples Democratic Party colleagues disagreed over the continuous funding of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government.
Trouble started during the debate of the House on President Muhammadu Buhari’s N465.6bn supplementary budget. The President had allocated N413.3bn of the total figure to funding fuel subsidy.
Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, led the debate on the fuel subsidy
But an argument soon ensued between the APC and PDP lawmakers after the House Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, questioned the “huge” subsidy vote at a time the price of crude oil had crashed to about $48 per barrel.
Ogor had said: “We all know that the N413.3bn is huge and we know that the price of oil has also dropped to $48 per barrel. How can we be spending N413.3bn on fuel subsidy? The money should be coming down.
“This is the more reason the President should make good his promise to remove fuel subsidy,” Ogor stated.
But Gbajabiamila immediately raised a point of order to stop Ogor, asking him to withdraw his “claim” that Buhari promised to remove fuel subsidy.
PDP members interrupted him, shouting “sit down!”
Earlier, APC members had also shouted at Ogor to “shut up”, “stop misleading the House” and “sit down!”
Gbajabiamila, who enjoyed the protection of the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, managed to regain the attention of members to continue speaking.
He stated, “The President has not come out to say that he will remove subsidy. There has never been any such statement by Mr. President.
“The minority leader should withdraw his statement.”
The PDP lawmakers reacted by shouting “no! no! no!”
Dogara intervened again to support Gbajabiamila’s position that Buhari had never said he would remove subsidy.
“The President has stated in unequivocal terms that he is against the removal of fuel subsidy because he is for the masses.
“However, if anyone has any document or evidence to prove that Mr. President is about to remove subsidy, he should tender it before the House,” the Speaker said.
Ogor made to quote the Minister of Information and former spokesman for the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as having mentioned that the APC government would remove fuel subsidy.
Again, he was interrupted by APC lawmakers, who accused him of “misleading the House and everybody.”
The House eventually resolved the issue by urging members to stop speculating on whether Buhari would remove fuel subsidy until the President himself made his intentions public.
Ruling on the matter, Dogara recalled that the House also withdrew a motion on fuel subsidy recently because it was speculative.
“We have a standing resolution of this House that we should avoid speculating on the removal of fuel subsidy until the President himself says so,” the Speaker added.
He also suggested that a decision on whether to retain fuel subsidy could come by way of a “comprehensive study on the effect of subsidy on the common man.”
Meanwhile, members generally spoke in support of the entire N456.6bn supplementary budget, but advised Buhari to ensure that the mistakes of the past were not repeated.
Members voted unanimously to pass the budget for second reading.