Nigerian Govt urged to shore up refining capacity and consider phased removal of subsidy

PORTHARCOURT-FORMER deputy national Chairman of the Ruling Peoples Democratic Party Chief Olabode George has also joined other professionals to throw his weight behind the federal government’s proposed subsidy removal by 2012.

This is coming on the heels of calls by some industry professionals for the federal government  not to attempt an outright removal of subsidy and should rather consider the removal in phases.

Chief George spoke on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Practical Nigerian Content forum which kicked off  in Port Harcourt this morning.

According to him the subsidy is only beneficial to the fat cows who unfortunately are also saying they are against it, now we should note that subsidy gulps a lot of money, where is the direct benefit to the people? He queried.

“In all our neighboring countries petrol sell far more higher than we sell here.  What the government should do in this instance is to have the Central bank Governor, the Minister of petroleum, finance and information to all come out and sensitise the people on this issue.

They can go to as many state capitals as possible to speak to the people in the language they understand through  a kind of public hearing, they can also bring the opposition people to the debate. So they can discuss the matter and clear all grey areas.

It is my view that when the people sees the loophole in the treasury as a result of deregulation they’ll be alarmed. Hence to change that policy government need to effectively engage and educate Nigerians.”

Meanwhile an highly placed industry professional who was also a keynote speaker at at the conference but pleaded anonymity stated that the only way the subsidy removal as laudable as it is would make sense to the average Nigerian is if it is removed in phases.

According to him the effect on the people would to o severe and government would be unpopular for it.

He further stated that government should however make public what it would be doing with over 8 billion dollars of annual saves if it must remove subsidy.

“Part of the problem with government is improper analyses. They need to work with verifiable statistics on this issue of subsidy removal. They need to know how many Nigerians go by diesel powered public transport to work every day and how many goes on petrol powered vehicles.

In Paris for example about 3 million people go about in public buses daily with such a figure government can plan.

They need to be able to tell us that in the first phase of the subsidy removal refineries would work at optimal level, in the second phase the power generation would rise to a particular level, and in the third phase major road contracts in the country would be awarded and completed in a particular period of time.

This is the only way government can show that it is responsive to people oriented issues and would not end up doing the right thing in the wrong way” he said.

Chief Olabode who was a delegate at the conference however opted for an outright removal of subsidy as according to him it is benefitting but only a few.

“I believe outright subsidy removal is necessary and takes a lot of courage but it should be properly explained to the people, the ministers should leave their seats and go out there to enlighten the people, that’s why they are there.

The fat cows benefiting from subsidy have a lot of money at their disposal to fight through the press so as to misinform the people so that it can continue.

It is a large chunk of our treasury and if it goes on and the people meant to be impacted are not impacted then what are we doing? It simply means government has failed.

There cannot be sanity in this system when even beneficiaries of the fuel subsidy are also calling for its removal, probably to shield themselves from the fact that the system has benefited them.

Government should also ensure that the refineries are optimal and create a level playing ground for investors who may be interested in the business of refining.

People should be able to go to the bank get money if need be and invest in the business of refining as this is the only solution.

Government cannot run refineries and cannot be in business. All they need to do is create the enabling environment to allow for more investor to flood the system.

All over the world if government  goes into business it loses money. About 18 companies have been given licenses to build refineries and they have not proceeded, it simply means there is a problem and any responsible government would want to know what went wrong with such a process” he enthused.





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