The Senate on Tuesday passed N574 billion Supplementary Appropriation Bill, approving N521 billion for the payment of subsidy claims.
The approval followed the consideration of the report of the Committee on Appropriation which recommended that the Senate should pass the budget.
The approved budget was increased by N108 billion from N465 billion presented by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In the proposal by Buhari, N413 billion was provided for payment of outstanding subsidy claims in 2014 and from January to September, 2015.
But, on realising that provision was not made in the estimate for payment of subsidy for October to December, 2015, the Senate added N108 billion to the budget to take care of subsidy payment till the end of the year.
However, the Senate directed its committees on Petroleum Upstream and Downstream and Anti-corruption to investigate the subsidy claims and payments.
The lawmakers queried the ‘’outrageous amounts’’ being claimed as subsidy, but admitted that they bowed to the blackmail of some oil marketers ‘’who make life difficult for Nigerians through scarcity’’ by approving funds for it.
In his remarks, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, insisted that subsidy payments must be stopped and urged Nigerians to prepare themselves to unanimously see to the end of such payment in 2016.
“We have at both the request of the executive, and particularly the sufferings of Nigerians to ensure that we see that this thing is done, and that is why we have passed this budget.
“At the same time, we want to warn the ministries and agencies in charge of this expenditure to make sure that these funds are judiciously used.
“The oversight committees, particularly appropriation, downstream petroleum, anti-corruption, we must expose with hope of sanction, any of these companies or agencies that take the opportunity because of the suffering of Nigerians to abuse this amount of money.
“This is truly economic sabotage where billions of naira are being approved but not judiciously used even our committee on anti-corruption must play a role to oversee every single payment.
“This issue of fuel subsidy, we all as Nigerians must say no to this blackmail by marketers; we must put an end to this issue and we must consider this in 2016,” he said.
Saraki commended the committee on appropriation for concluding the report within one week due to the urgent need.
Earlier, Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, said that he and many other Nigerians did not believe in the amounts being claimed as subsidy.
He said that the senate was bowing to blackmail occasioned by scarcity of petroleum products which had caused hardship for Nigerians.
Ndume reiterated that the Committee on Appropriation should ensure full investigation into the claims to make sure that the amounts claimed were genuine.
“We have been blackmailed into passing this bill at this time; not passing it will mean that the suffering of our people will continue.
“We are left with no option but to involve the powers given to us, that is the power to conduct investigation; we must determine the authenticity of these payments.
“It is important for the committee to look at each payment and ensure that the claims are genuine and authentic,” he said.
In his contribution, Minority Leader, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, said that there was need to end subsidy payments as promised by the present administration.
He urged the relevant committees to ensure that the payments were well scrutinized. (NAN)