03 April 2012, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt – When the debate for the total deregulation of the upstream sub-sector of the petroleum industry was raging, I mentioned to the few who cared to listen that what the federal government wished to achieve was not the deregulation of the sub-sector but to divest of the subsidy burden. We did not have long to wait before the federal government pegged the price of petrol at N140.00 per litre, not bothering to explain to Nigerians how a deregulated price regime came by a fixed pump price for all the grades of a product that was imported or manufactured under different circumstances. The value of this recall to our discourse is that the petroleum ministry and indeed the federal government have by virtue of knocking out a whopping N32.00 per litre from the old subsidy regime, become better positioned in every sense to improve on the semi-efficient system of supplying petrol to the points of demand in the polity.
But that is not what Nigerians are experiencing; it appears that instead of improving the lot of Nigerians in relation to the supply of petrol, the long queues of old have returned, the black market is thriving and darkness has swooped on cities starved of this direct source of powering homes, offices and the thousands of small scale industries that sustain the Nigerian economy. What is responsible for this situation and what can we start to do about it as civilised folk? If the savings we have made from the subsidy reduction have worsened our accessibility to the product it simply means that the folk who are on call to manage the gains for our mutual benefit are either mismanaging them maliciously or ignorantly. Either way, we owe ourselves the duty to review the performance of the sub-sector nearly three months after the subsidy reduction to re-strategise for a more efficient sub-sector.
The Honourable Minister for Petroleum Resources is a beautiful lady who has the potential for winning awards for Nigeria in more fields of human endeavour than I care to enumerate here but I am emboldened by the findings of my study of her non-achievements at the Petroleum Ministry, to infer that she is a failure at that ministry. Alison-Madueke had her work defined for her in the challenges presented by the ailing refineries, greedy importers, production sharing contracts which would only benefit Nigerians when fossil fuels are outdated, a regulator that is so ponderous as to require fragmenting to allow for efficiency, an oil and gas industry that has no defined place for the role of the owner occupier of the explored and exploited land, unsafe and unhealthy production environments that have attracted the intervention of the United Nation’s Environmental Protection organs, etc. These are not the kind of problems you resolve with the plumes and colours that Alison-Madueke has become famous for or that are settled by efficient mid-level technocrats, the whispering hi-five buddies of the minister who pretends to mingle with subordinates she has successfully emasculated to the detriment of the whole country.
The Minister for Petroleum Resources is not a bad person and I have no personal scores to settle with her. I once had tea with her mother at their GRA Port Harcourt home while waiting for the very refined and respectable lady prepare a bouquet of roses from her garden that I had planned to present to a friend. The Honourable Minister is no doubt a lady as decent and as respectable as her dear mother but the office she happens to occupy is responsible for the success or failure of this country’s fiscal strategies and by implication, the viability of our society. Pregnant women, accident victims, critically ill compatriots have lost their lives because they could not be transported expeditiously to medical facilities. And some medical facilities are 90% dysfunctional because of lack of petroleum products to power their generators. If we discount the businesses that have closed down, the losses incurred by the economy for the stagnation of business activities in the real sector as well as the losses suffered by the economy in recreational activities suspended for lack of energy, we cannot afford the loss of human lives that accrue daily to the country because of the inability of a minister to harness a bountiful resource for the benefit of the country.
Please join me in calling upon the Hon. Minister for Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke to come alive to her responsibilities or resign.