There was a rowdy session at the senate as senators bickered over increment in electricity tariff and fuel price.
There is tension in the camp of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, over increasing protests from lawmakers, following recent actions taken by President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
The fear, Daily Sun gathered, is borne of claims that some of the lawmakers drawn from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were plotting to convene an emergency sitting next week.
The emergency sitting, it was further gathered, is to provide an avenue for lawmakers to question the response of the leadership to recent hikes of electricity and petroleum products.
The Petroleum Pipeline and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporations (NNPC), had on Wednesday announced a new ex-depot price of N151.56k for petrol.
However, some filling stations owned by Independent marketers dispensed the product at between N162 and N164 per litre, depending on their location.
Lawmakers spearheading the move against Lawan are complaining that the inaction of the leadership was fueling a conspiracy against them.
“There’s this sentiment against lawmakers in our constituencies. They think that we are not doing enough and they’ve now labelled us stooges of Buhari. They call us rubber stamp and Lawan and other leaders of the Senate are not doing anything. Yet, Lawan wants us to approve everything sent to us by Buhari because they put him in office. We made a mistake by not insisting on having our own as president. We wanted to be loyal to our party, the APC. Today, we regret it,” a senator said in confidence.
Senate spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, in a chat with newsmen, said he was currently out of town and could not confirm if there were plans to convene an emergency sitting.
“President of the Senate called me a while ago. I’m not sure what he wanted to discuss with me. It may have been related to that. But I can’t tell. The Senate committee chairman on Rules and Business can confirm that,” he said.
As part of moves to further escalate the issue, the senator told Daily Sun that a world press conference was being planned. He said consultations were ongoing at the zonal caucuses about the protest which according to him, could be concluded by the weekend.
He said many senators were disappointed in the hurried manner the fuel price hike was done without consultation with the National Assembly.
Senate president had earlier this year claimed he waded into a planned hike in the electricity tariff. He had also claimed the development resulted in its postponement till the first quarter of 2021.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Sports, Obinna Ogba, said the increase in electricity tariff and fuel price at a time the economy was yet to recover from the deadly effects of COVID-19 showed government’s insensitivity.
“The country and indeed the whole world is facing serious problem right now because of the pandemic. Therefore, these increases are not good at all. It is adding salt to injury,” he said.
But Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun has defended Federal Government’s decision to hike petrol pump price and electricity tariff, saying the right amounts must be paid to attract investments to the sectors.
He told journalists after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari to present a publication on his first one year in office that Nigerians should be able to pay the slight increase since they will also enjoy lower prices when the prices of crude oil drop.
“First, you want to enjoy lower prices when the prices of crude are low and then not want to pay for a slight increase when there is an increase in price of crude.
“The price of crude is directly proportional to the price of refined products. So, I believe that is what is happening at the moment.”
On electricity tariff increase, he observed that there had not been an appropriate pricing, which had militated against the value chain of the power sector.
He said there was, therefore, the need make the electricity value chain profitable to attract investment and have enough electricity for transmission.
“In terms of the tariff increase in the electricity industry, again, we also have to decide what we want to do. We all complain that we are not generating enough electricity and we all complain about the fact that we don’t have the right infrastructure to transmit electricity, we complain about the fact that the distribution companies do not seem to be efficient. The problem is because, perhaps, the pricing is not right.
“If you want people to invest in production of gas, in gas floatation, which our turbines and our power plants rely on, we must ensure that the entire value chain is profitable. Because if one part of it is not profitable, that means there will be a short fall in one of the value chains, if we don’t have enough investment.
“So, if you don’t have enough investment in gas gathering, if we don’t have enough investment in gas transportation, we will not have enough gas supply to sustain the quantum of generation we require as a government or as a nation. And when we don’t have that, we don’t have enough that will be transmitted to our homes and the transmission grid, and then, we continue to complain. So, really the truth is that it’s a cache 22 situation.“