National Conference gives conditions for removal of fuel subsidy

The Conference approved the enactment of Ill-Gotten Gains Act to check corruption

The National Conference on Tuesday adopted a proposal asking the Federal Government to ensure that new refineries are built within three years and the existing ones repaired to operate in full capacity before the subsidy on petroleum products is removed.

The three years will be from the day the Conference Report is accepted by the government.

The Conference also voted for the enactment of an Act which will compel Nigerians who acquire property above their means to account for their source of wealth.

These are the some of the recommendations adopted at the end of debate on its Committee on Public Finance and Revenue. They are subject to the approval of President Goodluck Jonathan.

The debate on the report of the Committee chaired by a former governor of Kebbi State, Adamu Aliero, began on Monday with some of the delegates canvassing for the total removal of the subsidy on the petroleum products while others favoured gradual removal. Others rejected the removal outright.

The Committee had recommended the immediate removal of subsidy saying that not only was it enriching a few Nigerians against the masses, it was a major drain on the nation’s lean resources.

The pattern of the debate continued on Tuesday until a motion was brought by the National Chairman of Labour Party, LP, Dan Nwanyanwu, and 23 others demanding that some conditions be met before subsidy was removed.

In the motion, Mr. Nwanyanwu gave the conditions as follows:

-That the Federal Government shall within five years build new refineries and repair existing ones to full capacity;

-That private sector entrepreneurs who have already been granted licences to build new refineries shall, within five years build such new refineries or automatically forfeit such licences to enable other participants who are ready and willing to build such refineries within a period of five years the opportunity to do so; and

-That upon fulfilment of the preceding conditions, the Federal Government shall be free to remove any existing subsidy from petroleum products.

However, a delegate from Zamfara State and former senator, Saidu Dansadau, proposed an amendment to the motion to provide for three years instead of five years demanded in the motion. The amendment was overwhelmingly carried when the Deputy Chairman of the Conference, Bolaji Akinyemi, who was moderating the session put it to vote.

The Conference also approved an amendment to the Committee’s Report that the Ill-Gotten Gains Act be enacted to check corruption in Nigeria.

The amendment was proposed on Monday by a representative of the Civil Society Organisations, Isaac Osuoka, who lamented that over 80 per cent of public funds had been looted by public officials and their collaborators.

He said the thieving officials no longer hide their loot going by the exotic cars they ride and the big mansions they build.

The amendment was overwhelmingly approved when it was put to vote by Mr. Akinyemi, who explained that if a man of low income built a N500 million mansion the Act would put a burden of proof on the person on how he got the money.

Among other recommendations and amendments passed are:

-There should be two Accountant Generals, one for the Federation and the other for the Federal Government who should be appointed subject to the approval of the Senate, for a single term of six years;

-That Section 85(3) should be deleted from the 1999 Constitution to enable the Auditor General of the Federation to audit or appoint external auditors to audit Federal Government accounts in statutory bodies;

-That due to the overbearing attitude of the Executive Arm of Government, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, should be placed on first-line charge;

-That Indiscriminate approval of tax waiver should be stopped;

–That government is not completely at liberty to borrow, but that a ceiling should be placed on how much government should borrow;

– That Debt Management Offices be established in each state of the Federation without further delay;

-That the Federal Government should source for funds to revamp the Ajaokuta Steel Company;

-That the current 1.68% charge from the Federation Account for the development of solid minerals nationwide be increased to 5% while government should commence immediate utilization of the fund for the purpose it is designated;

-That solid minerals and mines should be included in the Concurrent Legislative List;

-That 50% of accruals from Excess Crude Account should be taken to the Sovereign Wealth Fund while equivalent percentage of earnings from solid minerals should also be taken to the fund;

-That Agricultural Development Fund should be established and that 10 per cent of the money from the Excess Crude Account should be set aside for the fund;

Some of the recommendations and amendments rejected are:
-That salaries and allowances of political office holders be placed at par with that of senior civil servants through amendment of Section 70 of the 1999 Constitution;

-That the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007 should be enshrined in the 1999 Constitution although it was resolved that its adherence be strictly followed;

-That henceforth, government agencies responsible for revenue generation and collection must comply with Section 162(3) of the 1999 Constitution which requires them to remit gross revenue in full to the Federation Account and resort to normal budget process of obtaining budget approval from the National Assembly to fund their operations;

-That all the sections of the enabling Acts of these departments and agencies of government that allow them to retain revenues and surplus to fund their operations be amended; and

-That licensed professionals be engaged as tax administrators or consultants.
Also rejected was the call for establishment of revenue courts for expeditious disposition of tax issues.

The Chairman of the Conference, Idris Kutigi, announced that the debate on the report of the Committee on Public Service would commence on Wednesday.

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