18 November 2014, Sweetcrude, Lagos – President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, Comrade Francis Johnson, has urged the Federal Government to develop non-oil sector along with the extractive and manufacturing industries as a way to further diversify the national economy from its monolithic nature and dependence on oil and gas.
The PENGASSAN President reiterated that only the development of the other minerals, agricultural and the manufacturing sectors could salvage Nigeria from the vagaries of the challenges posed by the dwindling global oil price, especially since Nigeria’s agrarian potentials have been left under-optimised.
Comrade Johnson who made this known in a statement obtained by Sweetcrude Reports noted that the price of oil is critical to the world economy, given that oil is the largest internationally traded good both in volume and value terms.
He added that only oil is linked to some extent to the prices of other products.
The PENGASSAN President explained that the dwindling oil price is now raising palpable fear due to the over dependence on oil and gas exports for over 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings, noting that the Excess Crude Account created to cushion the economy at difficult times like this had been depleted.
Comrade Johnson attributed the drop and its effects on the country’s economy to a number of factors including lack of foresight and strategic planning towards local refining and petrochemical activities, crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism, lack of formidable legal framework such as the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, and huge importation of refined products.
“We do not have significant refining capacity and we spend crude oil earnings to import refined petroleum products for local consumptions.
“The four state-owned refineries are not able to meet our local demand for petroleum products due to some avoidable and unavoidable factors,” he said.
He called on the federal government to expidite action on Turn Around Maintenance, TAM, and ensure adequate and regular supply of crude to the existing refineries; while encouraging establishment of refineries by private sector.
“The PIB, which provides for legal and regulatory framework as well comprehensive guidelines for the operations and activities in the oil and gas sector, is stuck in the National Assembly.
“There is need for the legislators to consider the bill and not waste time in passing it into law so as not to further delay or debar investment decisions that can spur development in the nation’s oil and gas sector,” he said.
He called on the government to put in place enduring machinery to combat crude oil theft and demanded a speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, to stem the ongoing lull by investors to commit funds for projects in the industry.
The union leader also advocated that necessary incentives need to be activated to facilitate the much needed private sector investments in the upstream midstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry.
The PENGASSAN president cautioned the federal government not to impose unnecessary austerity measures on Nigerians through the number of political aids attached to government officials.
He therefore urged government at all levels especially the executive and legislative arm to prune the number of political aides as a means of cutting cost in the country.
Comrade Johnson argued that the huge number of political appointees as aides to the Presidency, the ministers, state governors and their commissioners are simply wasting of national resources and putting pressure on the economy.
PENGASSAN president also cautioned the Federal Government, especially the Federal Ministry of Finance against stifling the economy through withholding of funds for human and developmental projects, but to tighten the noose around all avenues of leakages and wastages.
He stated that instead for the government to introduce austerity measures that will further impoverish and inflict more pains on the people, the government should consider reducing to the barest minimum the numbers of senior special advisers, special advisers, advisers and other aides that are attached to the presidency, the ministers, governors as well as members of the National Assembly and state houses of assembly.
“The kind of government we are running in Nigeria is wasteful and irrational and if we are looking for ways to cut cost, I think the first place to exemplarily focus on is the direction of reducing the numbers of presidential aides from 133 to the barest minimum of about 20.
“The huge amount we spend in paying these aides can be used on developmental projects and boosting of the nation’s economy
“The governors, ministers, federal and state legislators should also be made to reduce their aides to a sizeable number that our economy can bear and whatever is gotten from this exercise should be used in supporting and bolstering the economy,” he said.