VENEZUELAN Ambassador to Nigeria, Enerique Fernando Arrundell, could not have offered his advice on Nigeriaâ€™s management of its petroleum resources at a better time. The anchor of governmentâ€™s argument is that higher prices would draw foreign investors to the down stream sector of the industry.
Professor Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information had solicited VenezuelanÂ investments for our refineries.
Mr. Arrundellâ€™s response was without diplomatese. He launched a profound lecture on Nigeriaâ€™s oil and gas.
â€œIn Venezuela, since 1999, weâ€™ve never had a raise in fuel price. We only pay $1.02 to fill the tank. What I pay for with N12, 000 here (Nigeria), in Venezuela Iâ€™ll pay N400. What is happening is simple. Our President (Hugo Chavez) decided one day to control the industry, because it belongs to Venezuelans. If you donâ€™t control the industry, your development will be in the hands of foreigners.
â€œYou have to have your own country. The oil is your countryâ€™s. Sorry I am telling you this. I am giving you the experience of Venezuela. We have 12 refineries in the United States, 18,000 gas stations in the West Coast. All we are doing is in the hands of Venezuelans.
â€œBefore 1999, we had three or four foreign companies working with us. That time they were taking 80 per cent, and giving us 20. Now, we have 90 per cent, and giving them 10. But now, we have 22 countries working with us in that condition.
It is the Venezuelan condition. You know why? It is because 60 per cent of the income goes to social programmes. Thatâ€™s why we have 22,000 medical doctors assisting the people in the community. The people donâ€™t go to the hospital; doctors go to their houses. This is because the money is handled by Venezuelans. How come
Nigeria that has more technical manpower than Venezuela, with 150 million people, and very intellectual people all around, not been able to get it right? The question is: If you are not handling your resources, how are you going to handle the country?
â€œSo, it is important that Nigeria takes control of her resources. We have no illiterate people. We have over 17 new universities totally free. I graduated from the university without paying one cent, and take three meals every day, because we have the resources. We want the resources of the Nigerian people for the
Nigerians. It is enough! It is enough, Minister!â€
Do Nigerian authorities not know the truth? Is the answer really in deregulation?
Professor Akunyili must have been too stunned to address the issues the ambassador raised. â€œThere has been trade between the two countries actually, but we do not have many Venezuelans setting up manufacturing outfits in Nigeria.
I want you to use your good office to send a message across to your people that Nigeria is a goldmine for genuine investors. We want them to come invest just as other investors are doing in the telecoms sector, she said.