The National Economic Council (NEC), on Thursday, urged the federal government to halt the planned removal of petrol subsidy in June.
Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget and national planning, disclosed this to State House journalists during a briefing after the meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa.
She said the meeting deliberated on the matter and resolved that it cannot be removed for now.
But it also agreed on the need to continue discussion on the matter and the necessary preparatory work in conjunction with states and representatives of the in-coming administration, Ahmed said.
BusinessDay had reported earlier that chances that outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari would put an end to costly petrol subsidies that have battered government’s finances before he leaves office in a month were hanging by a thread.
That’s after Buhari received a security report saying that the pain and anger caused to Nigerians by the naira shortage responsible for renewed fierce opposition to the subsidy removal.
“Council agreed that the timing of the removal of fuel subsidy should not be now,” Ahmed told journalists. “But that we should continue with all of the preparatory works that need to be done and that this preparatory has to be done in consultation with the states and other key stakeholders including representatives of the incoming administration.”
She said NEC agreed that the fuel subsidy must be removed earlier rather than later because it is not sustainable.
She said: “We cannot afford it anymore. But we have to do it in such a way that the impact of the subsidy is as much as possible mitigated on the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
“So, this will require looking at alternatives to the fuel subsidy that needs to be planned for and subsequently put in place. But also what needs to be done to support the people that will be most affected as a result of the removal.
“So, we will be working together with representatives of the states; we will have a plan that we will start working on, putting the building blocks towards the eventual removal of the fuel subsidy.
“And if I may remind the forum that the budget for 2023 has provision for fuel subsidy only up to June 2023 and also the Petroleum Industry Act has a provision that requires that all petroleum products must be deregulated 18 months after the effective date of the PMS removal and that that period is also up to June 2020.”