By Alex Okoro
OrderPaperToday – A special emergency session convened by the House of Representatives on Monday witnessed a row just when the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, was about to be introduced to brief the Parliament on the rationale behind the hike in petrol price from N86.50 to a ceiling of N145 per litre.
The House however resolved to constitute an ad-hoc committee to interface with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Civil Society Organisations in a bid to avert a looming nationwide strike action in protest againstthe fuel price hike.
In this regard, the lower chamber specifically called on the groups to stop the proposed strike pending the submission of the report of its ad-hoc committee.
The rowdy session followed a Point of Order raised by the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, to allow the Minister to address the floor and explain the reasons for the hike in price of petrol. Although a voice vote called by Speaker Yakubu Dogara went in favour of the ‘Ayes’ members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) became dramatic as they rose in unison waving the National Flag and chanting ‘all we’re saying save Nigeria.’
To avert further drama, an executive session was called as moved by Minority leader, Leo Ogor. The lawmakers remained in closed door for more than an hour.
The Minister eventually mounted the rostrum and advanced some reasons for the fuel price raise. He pointed out that infrastructure challenges amongst other problems bedeviling the petroleum sector and that the situation the country found itself led to the decision of the hike in fuel price.
According to Kachikwu “if this move is not taken aside the federal government even States will not be able to pay salaries. We are in a situation where we have no option than to increase the price in order to be able to pay salaries in States.”
He stated in response to posers on the timing of the hike, that there was no right time to increase fuel price, adding that what happened in 2012 should not be the issue but rather “how to solve the problem the country is currently faced with.”
The Minister solicited the cooperation of state governors to help in enforcing the N145 price ceiling, saying the issue should not be left alone to the Ministry of Petroleum and its agencies.
The House ad-hoc committee led by Chief Whip, Alhassan Doguwa, is expected to report back to the House within five days.