EFFORTS by senators of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to convince the Senate to summon President Muhammadu Buhari to give reasons for the ongoing fuel scarcity in the country, were frustrated, yesterday, by their counterparts in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
The PDP senators, who berated the President’s handling of current economic situation in the country, insisted that he be made to a appear before the Senate to give explanations on the cause of the fuel scarcity and how he intended to solve the issue as Minister of Petroleum.
Their frustrated efforts came following a motion, tagged: “The current fuel scarcity all around the country and the need to urgently resolve the crisis,” sponsored by Senator Jibrin Barau, APC, Kano North and 23 other senators, which was debated upon.
Speaking through Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South, the opposition senators accused the President of mismanaging the country’s oil sector, causing untold hardship for Nigerians, barely six months after being in the saddle as president.
But the Senate, in a reaction to the development, said the President could not be summoned even as Minister of Petroleum.
The red chamber, reacting through its chairman on Media and Publicity, Aliyu Sabi, insisted that the fact that the President was overseeing the Petroleum ministry as a substantive minister, did not make him to be easily summoned like other ministers.
Abaribe had, while contributing to the motion, urged the Senate to summon President Buhari to explain why the Federal Government was yet to find solutions to the continued fuel problem in spite of its claim that the refineries in the country were working.
He said the unnecessary hardship occasioned by the scarcity could only be resolved if lawmakers were adequately briefed on the true state of affairs. Senator Abaribe‘s submission received wide support from other PDP senators, as they all hailed him.
Senator Abaribe supported his call with a prayer for adoption but it was defeated when the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, put it up for a voice vote.
At this point, the APC Senators, who were more in number, defeated their PDP colleagues with overwhelming shout of “yes” against the PDP’s “nay.”
President cannot be summoned —Senate
Earlier, in his motion, Senator Barau regretted that Nigerians were going through untold hardship following the lingering fuel problem.
“We are worried that the scarcity is creating an untold hardship to our citizens who have to pay higher prices for these products especially petrol. We are convinced that the current situation is not in tune with the desire of the progressively inclined government to bring succour to Nigerians in all spheres of their lives,” Senator Jibrin noted.
But at a briefing after the plenary session, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Aliyu Sabi, explained why President Buhari could not be summoned by the Senate.
He said as the Commander-in-Chief, it was wrong to invite him to appear before the Senate, despite the fact that he was the Minister of Petroleum.
Senator Sabi said in the place of President Buhari, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu would be summoned to brief the Senate on plans put in place by the Federal Government to end the fuel scarcity.
Senator Gbenga Ashafa, APC, Lagos East, while also contributing, called for the approval of the supplementary budget which he noted, contained the amount proposed for payment of subsidy to the marketers. He pleaded that the issue be treated with uttermost urgency.
We must reconsider PIB to stop scarcity —Saraki
Meanwhile, Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, said the Senate must take the issue of passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) seriously if scarcity of petroleum products would end in the country.
Saraki stated this while commenting on a motion seeking permanent solution to recurring scarcity of petroleum products in the country at Senate plenary.
He said with a law regulating the petroleum industry, relevant institutions would function effectively and urged senators not to politicize issues relating to petroleum products production and supply as they affected the live of every Nigerian.
“Scarcity has continued to plague this country and we must find a lasting solution to this problem,” he said.
After debate on the motion moved by Sen. Barau Jibrin (APC Kano North), the senate directed its Committee on Petroleum Upstream to proffer a lasting solution to the recurring problem of scarcity of petroleum products.
The upper chamber sought means of collaboration with the executive to end the recurring fuel supply challenge.
It urged the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to continue its current push to stem the scarcity, and commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his commitment in tackling issues in the sector.
Moving the motion earlier, Jibrin expressed worry that scarcity, whenever it occurred, brought untold hardship on Nigerians.
He said that problem was not in line with the goals of the current administration and as such, urged the senate to liaise with the executive and other relevant stakeholders to solve the problem.
In his contribution, Sen. Olugbenga Ashafa (APC Lagos East) recommended stringent punishment, including jail term for marketers who hoard petroleum products.
He said that such marketers contributed in making the lives of Nigerians more miserable, adding that their stations should not just be shut ‘’but they should be jailed”.
“Some marketers derive pleasure in hoarding petroleum products; if we do not set example with such people, the dastardly acts of hoarding will continue.
“Our regulators must ensure that marketers that are hoarding are not just clamped down on but prosecuted.
“We must assist Mr President in reviving our ailing refineries; if our refineries function optimally, we will not have the problem of scarcity,” he said.
On his part, Sen. Eyinnaya Abaribe, specifically said that the “senior” minister of petroleum resources should be summoned to explain the problems with fuel supply.
The senator questioned why the country still paid subsidies and experienced long queues when the present administration had in their campaign promised to end the problem.
“Many thought there will be no fuel queues under the APC but we see it everywhere; we are seeking the approval of over N400billion for payment of subsidy.
“Change has come but there is no change because we are still doing the same things; the fuel queues are still here; the subsidy payment is still there and there is no hope in sight.
“So we are asking, where is this change?
“We will ask the Minister of Petroleum to come and tell this senate what the ministry is doing to solve this problem.
“I support this motion, but I do not support the part where we are thanking a minister for not solving the problem,” he said.
Sen. Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central) said that the issue of deregulation must be revisited if private investors must delve into local refining of crude.
Sen. Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) in his contribution recalled that the cost of crude has dropped from about 120 dollars per barrel to about 40 dollars per barrel.
He pointed out that the subsidy being paid was what was owed to oil marketers, and urged that the issues should not be politicized.
In the meantime, the North East Development Commission Bill sponsored by Sen. Ali Ndume and Frivolous Petition Prohibition Bill sponsored by Sen. Ibn Na’Allah passed first reading at the Senate on Tuesday.
Also passed for first reading was the National Youth Service Corps (amendment) Bill, 2015 sponsored by Sen Stella Odua (Anambra North).