04 November 2012, Sweetcrude, Enugu – A socio- economic analyst and Chief Lecture at the Anambra State University, Uli, Dr. Godwin Uchechukwu Akam, has expressed concern that the federal Government’s plan for deregulating the downstream sector of the oil industry was at the verge of being totally defeated, following the activities of a cabal operating in the industry.
Dr. Akam, in an exclusive interview with Sweetcrude in his office at Awka, Anambra state, said his fears arose from the huge sums of money cornered and stolen by a cabals from the oil subsidy revenue, intended to be mopped up and judiciously deployed into other numerous ailing sectors of the national economy, to make life meaningful for the people.
He recalled how government, while canvassing support for the policy, had assured Nigerians that it was for their ultimate good and lamented, “we have virtually come to the end of this year. But Nigerians have not seen any change for the better, in terms of the infrastructural decay meant to be addressed from that fund, such as roads, health, electricity, education, industries,etc. See our Roads; totally impassable: the Enugu-Onitsha Express way and the Enugu-PortHarcourt Express way are in piteous states. Other infrastructures are in serious decay.”
Akam bemoaned the horrible scarcity of petroleum products – especially petrol and kerosene in most filling stations in Nigeria and the attendant high cost even when found, wondering what actually government has been doing to better the lives of the people in a nation God has endowned with abundant petroleum and other natural resources.
He noted that if government had maintained the tempo of seriousness impressed upon Nigerians at the onset, a number of private new refineries would have been under way by now, adding that it was unfortunate that “petroleum products have become much more unavailable. No new Refineries yet, as investors are afraid of investing their fund, admist all sorts of uncertainties. Nothing is stable and no one wants to lose his fund. Government has to show more seriousness.”
The don, who holds a bachelors degree in Brewing Technolngy and doctorate degree in Business management agreed that there was nothing wrong with the de-regulation, if only government could manage it well, by deploying its proceeds into the speedy development of social infrastructure.
He urged the government to mount serious checks against those who steal and sell crude oil daily and those importers who claim payment for cargoes of refined oil that never arrived the shores of Nigeria.
“If this programme could translate into free education for my children and free medicare, for instance, I will be prepared to pay even #200 for a litre of fuel,” he enthused.
He noted that government should have done a lot of homework before embarking on the deregulation exercise, such as ensuring that new refineries are built in many parts of the country to ensure local supply, adding that what government did was like setting the cart before the horse, which is now taking serious toll on the hapless citizens, while the foreign oil firms and a few unpatriotic Nigerians are busy enjoying their loot.
Dr Akam wondered if government has ever cared to know the exact barrel per day, (bpd) of crude oil produced by these oil firms, since the oil pipes were always directed towards the high seas and the crude leaves Nigeria daily for sale abroad, so, it was possible for ‘X’ quantity to be produced and a figure much less declared to government. And upon all these possible daily thefts, he said,these firms hardly pay their royalties to government.
“Ok, since the 1950s when we struck oil, why do we not yet have indigenous oil exploration and drilling experts, enough to replace the foreign ones? We lose a lot to these foreigners. Then, you talk of our own brothers who do not want our local refineries to thrive, so that they can continue to import, to the peril of the Nigerian people,” he queried.
Brandishing today’s copy of the Nation’s Newspaper to butress his point, Dr. Akam pointed to’The Nation Newspaper’ of yesterday- pages 5 and 58 respectively, containing the Report of the Nuhu Ribadu led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force that submitted to Mr. President yesterday, which revealed that Oil firms in Nigeria were making huge profits, yet investing them largely outside the country, while refusing to pay Royalties to the Federal Government, indicating that over 47 oil firms were owing the government in respect of Royalties, signature bonus and gas flaring.
The University don and Community leader decried the the situation which has begun to force Nigerians to flee in droves to neighbouring countries like Ghana, for survival when God had blessed them with plenty, swearing that posterity would not forgive our leaders if they fail to make Nigeria great.
Nigerians, he said, would wish a return to the status quo ante (restoration of the subsidy), “with fuel pump price at N65, rather than watch and see soul-less oil thieves take it all and worsen their plight”.