Former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has on Sunday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency, liberalise the nation’s petroleum downstream sector.
Atiku who was the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2019 election, made this known in a press statement issued on his behalf by his media aide, Paul Ibe.
He maintained that the current practice of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC using scarce foreign exchange to import fuel at subsidised rates is not sustainable.
He advised the Buhari administration to as a matter of urgency, “drive the enhancement of our local capacity to process larger quantities of our crude for domestic consumption and not be fixated over price fixing.”
According to Atiku, “There is also the need to “build the enabling infrastructure to add value to the economy via the development of petrochemical facilities.
“These will allow the country to impact upon so many sectors including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, textiles and construction as well as food processing.”
He quoted the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, UNIDO as saying that up to a million new jobs can be created in Nigeria within 10 years through investments in petrochemicals and petrochemicals-based activities.
He had this to say on the propriety of fixing of the pump price for the Premium Motor Spirit also known as fuel.
“The price of crude and fuel can fall even further or go back up without notice. Nigeria as it stands today does not even have the money to continue to be involved in backstopping fuel price at any level.
“And the way to go is to liberalise the downstream subsector and not fix prices as long as the marketers can import on their own and sell.”
Thus, the long term strategy to swim out of “this embarrassing situation” is to prioritize investments “to ramp up our domestic refining capacity and ensure that Nigeria starts to process domestically at least 50 per cent of its current crude oil output of 2 million barrels per day. This, he said, can be achieved within a very short time if government encourages private sector participation under a liberalised downstream.
Atiku’s position is premised on the planned reduction of PMS pump price.
He regretted that Nigeria is currently the largest importer of fuel in the world, noting that not only is this counterproductive for the economy, “it equally has signiﬁcant balance-of-trade implications (especially in this season of Covid-19 instigated economic meltdown) due to reﬁned oil products being by far the single largest import item on which Nigeria spends its diminishing hard-earned foreign currency.
“And given the extensive capital outlay that this may command, our goal should be to privatise existing refineries and create opportunity for new ones in our effort to diversify the economy, generate additional revenues and create jobs. The reports that our refineries did not produce petrol in eight months even makes the case for the privatization of the four refineries compelling to pave way for private investment that will spur efficiency, productivity and profitability”, he added.