By; SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
The Federal Government has said that its inability to find a formula that works for the country is the reason why it has not been able to design buffers against removal of petroleum subsidy.
Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, explained while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in Abuja on Wednesday that Nigeria is a unique country as what works for others may not be feasible within its context.
She said even though the Economic Management Team (EMT) has been discussing it periodically, it has not been able to decide what to do.
While insisting that the subsidy cannot be removed now, she said to do so, there would be the need to agree with legislature on buffers to ameliorate the effects on the most vulnerable citizens.
However, she said government will continue to work on it.
She explained: “Let me say that last week when were having IMF/World Bank, there was just one interactive session we had with Nigerian journalists. So, we didn’t have any session discussing subsidy. It was in an interview that somebody raised a question based on the Article 4 Report of the IMF.
“What they were asking is whether we are doing to remove fuel subsidy and whether we agreed with IMF’s
conclusion on subsidy removal.
“So, let me say that everywhere in the world where IMF does its review, it will always give advice because that’s the purpose of the review. And their advice is when you give subsidy whether it is fuel or power, their advice is always ‘look at how you can exit doing that. So that you are not doing that for petrol.’ And that’s the same advice they gave Nigeria.
“So, when I was asked, I said we agree with that advice. We need to find joe we can exit fuel subsidy. But how do we do that? We do that only when we have enough buffers to cushion the effect or removal for our people.
“It is up to the Executive in support with the legislature to agree what those buffers are.
“In same countries, they provided buses to transport people, in some counties they provide subsidies in a manner that the people that are directly requiring the subsidies.
“We have not found a way to do it. What we are doing now, the subsidy, it is everybody that it benefiting, whereas it should be the people that are really vulnerable that need the help that need the subsidy.
“So, in the Executive with the support of the legislature, we have to find a formula that will work for Nigeria. And until we do that, we should not be contemplating removing the subsidy because, indeed when we do, there will be people that will suffer. So, we are not yet there.
“We discussed this periodically under the Economic Management Team. But we still haven’t found a formula that works for Nigeria. And you know that Nigeria is unique. What works for Ghana might not work here.
“So, it’s still work in progress for and there is no intention to remove fuel subsidy at this time.”