By Ediri Ejoh
FORMER Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Prof. Tamunoemi David-West, said that Nigerians should expect sharp drop in petrol price from the current N87 to about N40 per litre, saying, “the president-elect, Gen. Mohammed Buhari, will reduce the fuel pump price to N40 per litre.”
In a telephone interview with Vanguard, the former minister argued that Nigeria produces millions of barrels of crude oil daily, and if properly harnessed will boost the performance of the industry.
His words: “I want to assure you that by the time he takes over, petrol will be dispensed at N40 per litre. This is possible and he has the credibility to make it work.
The major assignment of the president-elect when he is eventually inaugurated is to restore confidence to the industry.
He noted that the president-elect is familiar with the petroleum industry, adding that he is a straight forward person that has respect for democratic principles.
“As military head of state, he dealt with the Federal Executive Council with the tenets of democracy. Buhari will build new refineries to make petroleum products available for the masses. No responsible government will allow the masses to suffer.
“He will strengthen the refineries within a year. It is possible as we won’t spend any amount in setting up a green field refinery. We already have a blueprint as we shall use what we have to get what we want,” he added. He further stated that on many occasions, the president – elect had disclosed that the subsidy initiative is a fraud which has distorted the progress expected in the sector.
He is also said to have frowned at the spate of corruption, which has characterised the subsidy regime to include the trillions of Naira spent on both Petrol and Kerosene subsidy within the past few years, thus inhibiting efforts to properly carry-out the Turn Around Maintenance TAM, for the refineries. He added that on countless occasions, he had argued that the country is forced to pay for scam carried out by oil cartel.
Also contributing, a UK-based economic analyst, Mr. Seyi Odetola, noted that the president-elect has expressed doubts on the credibility of the subsidy claim. He added that there may be the need to investigate the several claims made by marketers, which will further reinforce his earlier submission on the subsidy claim.
According to him; “The fact that most filling stations in the country are now dispensing petroleum products after the presidential election, despite the threat by major oil marketers to stop selling the product, in view of the subsidy arrears owed to them by the Federal Government, indicated that most of the marketers have been benefiting from the fraud.
He argued that “Where did they get funds to import the product, given the nature of the forex? If after the presidential election fuel is still available as if nothing had happened, it is then apparent that there is no fuel subsidy. “It would be difficult for him, to unitarily remove subsidy without the proper consideration of the plight of the major players in the sector.
He will need to re-appraise the cause of inefficiency of the sector.” He further hinted that the president-elect, with his pedigree and respect for the rule of law, will completely phase out importation by the time the local refineries are working. This, according to him, will totally remove subsidy, adding that subsidy as it is presently constitutes the promotion of corruption and impunity.
“I am optimistic that the president-elect will look into the subsidy regime as soon as he finally settles down for the business of governance. He stressed that renewed attention will be given to the revamping of the four refineries as well as focus on the construction of new ones.”
He concluded that “In the long term, through the confidence that will be restored in the downstream and upstream sectors, investors will be encouraged to do business which will stimulate the growth from the level it is.
On his part, the Director, Strategic Planning, Research Intelligent, Mr. Olubunmi Martins, argued that the subsidy regime is riddled with corruption, a sign post of the present administration. He said the challenge before the industry is the gradual restoration of the local refineries, which will take care of the local consumption for petroleum products.
He insisted that if activities at the various refineries are up scaled up, subsidy will no longer be a major concern in the country. He however urged the president-elect to scrutinise the various marketers, as most of the companies were floated solely for the sake of benefiting from the subsidy regime, thereby snowballing into cartels that have held the sector back.
Olubunmi maintained that subsidy has distorted all the major economic activities that should have taken place in the country. “I am still at a loss with the concept of the whole subsidy, what is being subsidised and who are the beneficiaries? But it will be unwise for the president-elect to remove the subsidy immediately he takes over the mantle of leadership, as such an action could force him into a trap set by the oil cabals.
“Notwithstanding, Gen. Buhari will have to do a complete evaluation of the sector to properly understand areas of non-performance and take appropriate action,” he added.