Revisiting Nigeria’s Oil Policy
NIGERIA has no doubt earned a fortune from petroleum, enough to transform the economy completely and deliver the good life to her citizens. Ironically, poverty, misery, hunger, looting, insecurity to lives and property continue to grow in proportion. Poverty has grown so wild that it has seemingly consumed a whole class, the middle class. The few rich ones have shipped their wealth and hidden it in banks abroad. Because they have control of the different arms and agencies of government, they frustrate every step to stop looting, money laundering, gas flaring, oil spillage and local refinery. Their powerful network has informally declared and showed up as vested interests.
WHEN in 2000 former president Olusegun Obasanjo inaugurated the oil sector by inaugurating the oil and gas sector implementation committee some expected that change would come to that sector. Unfortunately not much was heard thereafter until President Yar Adua, Obasanjo’s successor, came up with the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) intended to revolutionise the whole system of the oil sector. Vested interests within and without Nigeria are united, with one voice, to scuttle the bill, a caricature of what might have been passed by the National Assembly in 2018.
IN the original bill which introduced a number of changes in the fiscal system governing oil and gas operation in Nigeria’s multinational companies and their individual and corporate partners in Nigeria have consistently and assiduously opposed passage or eventual benefits that would accrue to Nigerians from oil and gas, should the bill see the light of the day.
BEYOND seasonal shortage of petroleum products particularly Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, which visit frustration and disaster on individuals, families and the economy, petroleum industry bill would have curbed the waste in the oil and gas sector, by diverting gas from flaring to powering turbines for the power sector. It also has an inexhaustible capacity to provide raw materials for hydrocarbon industries and generate employment and income for millions of Nigeria that are either unemployed or underemployed.
THERE are Ghana and Brazil to learn from. Some years ago when Ghana opened up her oil and gas sector, she insisted that multinational companies coming for business must operate oil refineries. That takes care of vested interests that would prefer to import oil products into the economy, load various factors as subsidy into products. In the case of Brazil, Brazil established petrobas, the largest company in South America by revenue and market capitalization.
IT owns oil refineries, oil tankers and is a world leader in development of advanced technology in deep water and ultra deep water oil production,
IN order that future generation would not regard this generation of leaders as unpatriotic, there is an urgent need to overhaul the oil and gas sector. Apart from the fact that petroleum deposits are exhaustible, it should be borne in mind that alternative sources of energy are being sought and discovered. That means petroleum would continue to drop in relevance and value. The time left can be maximally utilized to make the best out of this God given resource. This is the right time to unleash the capacity of the national in the oil and gas sector essentially for the multiplier effects of its implementation would be employment generation. The Hope hereby calls on the federal government to promulgate necessary legislation compelling Multinational Corporations in the oil sector to put up refineries and begin to refine the products in Nigeria. Again, gas flaring must be criminalized to stop the waste while turbines for electricity should be adequately supplied.
IN the mean time, the Federal Government should stop all manners of subsidy payment since it is a means of further enriching the affluent in their idleness. Existing refineries should be sold off, while market forces are allowed to run full course in oil and gas sector.
THE 22 licenses of thereabout granted during the Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo must be activated now.