*Fuel subsidy payment drops to zero
*Ministers defend Buhari’s govt, urge patience
27 April 2016, Lagos — From the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, came yesterday a pathetic revelation that over 30 per cent of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol is being diverted to neighbouring countries, including Chad and Cameroun.
Kachikwu, who spoke at a town hall meeting, said about 400 Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) petrol trucks had been sent to Lagos but only about 250 offloaded their contents.
He said the petrol tankers were able to get away with this because the Petroleum Ministry cannot monitor their activities once they are loaded with fuel.
He, however, said the government was working towards curbing the menace by installing trackers on each truck and also by registering the depots and filling stations they are meant to supply – hence, if they fail to offload the quantity required, there will be a record of the anomaly.
Kachikwu empathised with Nigerians on the fuel scarcity situation which has lingered for months, stating that “everything that touches Nigerians touches me.”
Kachikwu further stated: “We continued to hold on to the umbrella of a major importer of the product. We are working very hard to ensure that PMS supplied in this country is not diverted. We have pumped 400 trucks of product into Lagos State in the last five days. The total consumption in Lagos at a maximum time is 250 trucks. These trucks are diverted from Lagos. They move from Lagos to the outer hinterland to the border and proceed to Chad and Cameroun. We need literally a whole army to stop this act. So, what we continue to do is to supply and over-supply just to cover the gap. We need people to continue to report incidents that you know. I have lost countless months of sleep over fuel scarcity.
“What we want to embark on is engaging only truckers which have trackers to make it easy for us to monitor the movement of product in the country.”
He disclosed that the average loss of NNPC, which was over N300 billion per month, had been reduced to N3 billion.
Kachikwu added that the Offshore Processing Agreement (OPA) programme had made savings of over $1 billion over a period of time. He disclosed that the payment of subsidy, which was in excess of N1trillion in 2015 alone had been reduced to near zero.
The inaugural town hall meeting, which started in Lagos and is to be held throughout the six geopolitical zones ahead of the one-year anniversary of the administration on May 29, is aimed at acquainting Nigerians and other stakeholders with the giant strides of the government.
In his opening remarks, Mohammed said it was the priority of the administration to ensure there was no communication gap between it and the governed as it had done that through several platforms, including meeting with many stakeholders.
He said bringing the officials of government in direct contact with the representatives of people from all walks of life to discuss issues affecting the polity is the best form of participatory democracy.
According to him, “This will not only ensure that the government hears directly from the people on how its decisions affect them, but will ensure that we carry the people along in the efforts we are making to keep our electoral promises, enthrone good governance and make life abundant for all Nigerians.”
He added that the administration had deliberately timed the take-off of the town hall meeting series, which commenced in Lagos, South West to coincide with the first anniversary of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. “The achievements recorded in the administration’s first 12 months, the challenges we face and the gains of the President’s foreign trips, especially the recent trip to China, will form the core of the proceedings here.”
Mohammed noted that government deliberately brought the ministers present because of the relevance of their ministries to burning issues of the moment to acquaint Nigerians with the administration’s successes so far.
Giving overview of what the government has achieved since May 29, 2015, Mohammed said: “Our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), campaigned on three broad areas: Tackling corruption, ensuring the security of lives and property and, of course, the economy, which encompasses creation of job, diversification of the economy away from oil and others.”
On the security of lives and property, he explained that though Nigeria has faced the challenges of ethnoreligious violence, armed robbery, cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom, militancy and violent agitations, the most daunting security challenge that the country had faced in the past seven to eight years had been the Boko Haram insurgency. That explains why the President’s first trips outside the country, after he was sworn in, were to rally the support of neighbours – Benin, Cameroun, Chad and Niger – for the efforts to tackle the insurgency.
“To douse the ugly security situation, Mr President also rallied the support of the international community, starting with the G7, and then the US, France and the UN. Today, the President’s efforts have paid off. Boko Haram has been defeated.”
The minister also appraised the administration on the fight against corruption, describing it as huge success.
He disagreed with the insinuation that the Buhari-led administration is only fighting corruption without paying attention to the economy or any other thing. “Of course, this is not true, but even if it is, it is patently justified. Why? Because unless we fight corruption to a standstill, nothing else we do will yield positive results. It was corruption that prolonged the war against Boko Haram and dispatched many soldiers and civilians to their early graves and others.”
He charged all Nigerians to be part of the war, saying: “All of us must be part of the war. It is not Buhari’s war. It is not APC’s war. It is Nigeria’s war of survival, and defeat will only sentence all of us, and our generations yet unborn, into perpetual penury.”
He also said the administration was already turning the economic disaster it met in 2015 to a blessing by working assiduously to diversify the economy away from oil. According to him, “Agriculture, Solid Minerals, Culture and Tourism are some of the sectors we are currently working to rejuvenate so they can earn huge revenues for the country and create jobs.”
While Nigerians are still waiting for the 2016 Appropriation Bill to be signed into law, Mohammed said the budget had recorded a first with the capital expenditure being increased to 30 per cent, and beyond that, there are six social intervention areas that will directly touch the lives of millions of citizens and lift them out of poverty.
•500,000 graduated to be employed and trained as teachers;
•370,000 non-graduates (artisans, technicians) to be trained and employed;
•One million people (farmers, market women, etc) to granted loans to set up small businesses;
•conditional cash transfer to the most vulnerable people coming;
•school feeding is targeting 4.5 million school children; and
• bursaries/scholarships for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) coming for students.
Onyema, who harped on the gains of Buhari’s foreign trips said it was impossible for the government to do everything because individual Nigerians had all it takes to drive the economy.
“One of the major reasons for the President’s trips, which started with neighbouring African nations, was the challenge of the Boko Haram insurgency, to form a coalition with the neighbours since it has now turned to a trans-border insecurity. He also needed to seek the support of international communities because of the global threat terrorism currently poses.”
Justify the President’s foreign trips, Onyeama said it was an open secret that most of the money stolen in the country is stashed in some foreign nation. “He needs to interact and have a working agreement with some of these nations to facilitate how all the illegally exported money would be repatriated to Nigeria and also unravel the characters who are responsible. This effort has been yielding results.” Other dividends of the trips he mentioned include the administration’s ability to attract foreign investors.
Enelamah, who said the government had gone far in securing the attention of some foreign investors in the country noted that in creating an enabling environment that would really catch the attention of these investors, the Buhari-led government was looking beyond hard and visible infrastructure. “We are looking at other various indices the world uses that would involve collaboration with ministries of government and states.”
On the President’s trip to China, Enelamah explained that contrary to the fear in some quarters that the administration was moving away from the Western World to the East, “this is a global phenomenon because the East appears to have a lot of resources they wanted to dispense. It was not a step taken to spite any block as some people are thinking.”
*Seye Olumide & Roseline Okere – Guardian