The debate on government sincerity at putting a stop to fuel subsidy payments got a twist at the House of Representative Adhoc Committee yesterday when it was disclosed that the federal government spent N221.1 billion on fuel subsidy between January and July, 2015 as against the N143 billion appropriated in the 2015 budget.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Anastasia Nwaobi dropped the bombshell while answering questions at the Adhoc committee hearing on Non-implementation of capital expenditures budgeted for in the 2015 budget.
Mrs. Nwaobi, represented at the hearing by the director of the Budget Office, AliyuGusau, said the money was released as an emergency expenditure, “Nothing was approved or appropriated for (fuel subsidy) in 2015, but the actual for January to July was N222.1 billion,” she disclosed.
Dissatisfied with the response as to who gave approval for the release of money not budgeted for, chairman of the committee, AliyuPategi (APC, Kwara State), stressed that such flagrant disregard of the Appropriation Act will not be condoned. “Appropriation is an act and we insist on its implementation, we want to know where there are challenges but to spend money like N222.1 billion without recourse to the parliament is not acceptable to us,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari, shortly after being sworn May, 2015 blamed past administrations for the current situation where Nigeria is forced to spend billions of Naira annually on alleged subsidies for petroleum products, and vowed to put an end to the scheme.
In 2013, government budgeted N970 billion as payments for fuel subsidy but only N515 billion was eventually released. Also in 2014, similar amount was set aside but meager N414 billion was eventually paid to oil marketers.