By Victor Ahiuma-Young
UMBRELLA body for senior staff in the nationâ€™s petroleum sector, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), has the federal government full deregulation of the down stream sector of the petroleum industry, without putting in place necessary facilities to make it, warning that anything short of putting the facilities in place would spell doom for the nation.
President of PENGASSAN, Comrade Babatunde Ogun, told Vanguard that government trumpeted resolved to commence full deregulation this month is only increase in pump price of petrol, warning that such deregulation would be resisted.
According to him: â€œBut we strongly believe and we have always said it that deregulation should not be to add pains Nigerians. But what we thinkÂ Â government is trying to do now is to just remove theÂ subsidy and leave Nigerians to live in anguish because you cannot deregulate without ensuring that there is fixed time to stop importation of products from the western world which means you have to make effort in ensuring that not only our refineries start to work while we are now trying to import to make the short fall, but there should be a time table for new refineries to come on stream.
Number two, there are several possibilities that hinders free inflow of product even for the one you are going to import and the government as we speak,Â has not done nothing about that. We are talking of wastage. When ships come to Nigeria water side, they stay there for very long time accumulating demurrage . Ordinary to dredge the port, because there is no enough facilities to cope with the volume of import, the government has not done that.
So if you deregulate now, all you are telling the entire Nigerians is,Â you can go and solve your problems out because the few cabal we are talking about will now create artificial scarcity and the product will not be available. Again,Â government has been owingÂ importers of products for years and they have not paid. Which simply means in the next one or two months there will be no availability of product and by that time NNPC would have fully commercialised to recover their cost.
Then Nigerians willÂ now pay two times more of what they would have paid. So for government to deregulate at all, all these and other conditions precedent to deregulation must be in place. They mustÂ ensue that the domestic refineries have reached a particular level of production in such a way that only few quantity of product would be imported for local consumption. The dredging has to be completed. The facilities need to be expanded to cope with the demand and the chunk and however the money they are trying to save need to be targeted toward a particular amount not.
The Federal government is now telling us that the money realise from deregulation is going to be channeled towards the development of the country. If you are going to make a sacrifice of letting go of what you have been enjoying as subsidy, then you most be attracted to something that is going to add value, such as social security and ensure that life is better for Nigerians.
You are talking of hospitals , you are talking of education, government need to come up wholeheartedly and be able to tell us that our health is guaranteed. And as we speak today, there is no single hospital in Nigeria that can treat third degree burns. So if you have anything from this oil facilities where they are generating the money from,Â you have to be moved from here to a place like South Africa and within that time you have gotten a second or third degree infection and most time you find it difficult to survive. So we expect government to have come out with laudable programme. For government to remove subsidy, these are the things that they ought to do. So in view of that, we can now start to tighten our belt while we are ensuring that the process succeed. As we speak, the government is not ready for deregulation and I think itâ€™s just a mouth thing.