By Emma Ujah
ABUJA -Â Minister of Finance, Mansur Muhtar, has called for the re-opening of the privatisation exercise of the nationâ€™s refineries as a major way to end fuel imports, lamenting that Nigeria was the only OPEC member dependingÂ on imported refined products.
Muhtarâ€™s position which was presented to the Presidential Committee on deregulation in Abuja, yesterday, came barely four days after visiting United States of Americaâ€™s Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, said Nigeria â€™s dependence on imported fuel was a sign of bad leadership in the country.
He argued that the fuel subsidy which stood at N202.5 billion in this yearâ€™s budget was money that could have been spent on other areas of the economy that could impact positively on the people and that there was no justification for importation of fuel.
The minister said the abundant oil reserves in the countryÂ â€œcreates favourable conditions for the development ofÂ competitive downstream petroleum sector; and diversified non-oil economy.
Former President Obasanjo has sold Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries to a consortium of Nigerian investors led by Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola shortly before leaving office after years of frustrating Turn Around Maintenance contracts midwifed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
However, President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua cancelled the privatisation exercise after being deceived by the same NNPC that it could fix all the refineries in matter of months. They have continued to remain largely non-functional, more than two years after.