The Federal Government may go ahead with the withdrawal of fuel subsidy without the National Assembly’s approval, The Nation learnt at the weekend.
But the House of Representatives is said to be planning to stop President Goodluck Jonathan from using Executive Fiat to get the job done.
The House may invoke its statutory powers in Sections 80-85 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to stop Dr. Jonathan from withdrawing fuel subsidy without recourse to the National Assembly.
But the government is fine-tuning its palliative measures or safety nets ahead of the subsidy withdrawal.
About 11 key palliative measures have been drawn up.
The thinking in some presidential circles is that withdrawal of fuel subsidy should be purely an Executive decision and not a legislative matter.
Those pushing this line of argument maintain that the President should not have consulted the National Assembly, in the first instance.
A source said: “I think the President is just being modest because by virtue of Section 16(1) (b) of the Constitution, the Federal Executive Council is empowered to control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.
“Section 16(2) also says that the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development.”
But the President is said to have favoured broad-based consultations because of the “sensitive” nature of the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
Another source said: “There is pressure, no doubt, on the President to use Executive Fiat, but he prefers to consult with the National Assembly. That is why he may still meet further with Senators and members of the House of Representatives.
“I am aware that some people are not too comfortable with the fact that the President has not used Executive Fiat.
“After consultations with Senators and Representatives, however, the President will not send any bill or letter to the National Assembly on the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.”
But a top officer of the House, who confided in our correspondent, said members were working on a “Plan B”, if the President decides to ignore its advice and if he goes ahead with the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
The source said: “Those who are making a case for Executive Fiat have forgotten that the withdrawal of subsidy will be part of the 2012 budget.
“And by virtue of sections 80-85 of the 1999 Constitution, we can stop the President from withdrawing fuel subsidy.
“The option left for the Executive is to meet those four conditions we gave it, especially the proposed palliative measures.
“We are ready for dialogue because we want the best for the country, but we won’t accept Executive Fiat.
“Let me give you a specific example of Section 81(1) which may be applicable to the withdrawal of fuel subsidy and the 2012 budget.
“The section says: “The President shall cause to be prepared and laid before each House of the National Assembly at any time in each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next following year.
“The heads of expenditure contained in the estimates (other than expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation of this Constitution) shall be included in a bill to be known as an Appropriation Bill providing for the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the sums necessary to meet that expenditure and the appropriation of those sums for the purposes specified therein.”
The government is said to be considering about 11 palliatives to cushion the effects of the proposed withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
Some of the proposed measures are:
•Massive road rehabilitation and construction nationwide
•Heavy investment on security
•Subsidy for electricity tariff
•Infrastructural development in power, education and other sectors
•Scholarship scheme and low tuition fees
•Mass transit scheme, including completion of the ongoing expansion of the railway network, mass
•Making maternal and child care affordable
•Loan facilities/credit scheme for farmers, small-scale industrialists, and the poor.
•Social safety nets for workers, such as accessible mortgage system, car loan and affordable medical bill
•Likely introduction of a social security scheme.
A highly-placed source in government, who confided in our correspondent, said: “No government will just withdraw fuel subsidy or any form of subsidy without palliative measures.
“We are already working on far-reaching palliative measures or safety nets. But discussions with the National Assembly will further assist in cushioning the effects of the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
“Our plans are such that Nigerians will not feel the effects of the subsidy withdrawal as such. We are ready to unfold all these palliative plans soon.”