By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA – THE Senate yesterday warned proponents of new increment in pump price of fuel, saying they must not take the patience of Nigerians over current economic situation in the country for granted.
This came as it confirmed Vanguard’s earlier exclusive report that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, ordered suspension of treatment of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, following disagreements by senators on the host communities’ funds component of the bill.
The Red Chamber, speaking to journalists, in Abuja, through its spokesman, Senator Abdullahi Aliyu Sabi, asked government not to buy the ideas of ex-NNPC Group Managing Directors, who were reported at the weekend to call for new hike in fuel price given that the current N145 per litre was no longer sustainable.
He insisted that government must be mindful of the activities of the former NNPC bosses,who he noted, were parading themselves as its advisers, saying they may be the agents of enemies of the present federal administration with given tasks to pull government down.
Sabi, who represents Niger North Senatorial District on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, said the former NNPC helmsmen lacked the capacity to speak the way they did, blamed them for the current nation’s economic woes, saying their various administrations in NNPC brought the country to its current situation.
Hear him:”First and foremost, let me say that these are my personal opinion. I’m not making this submission as spokesman of the Senate, which means the position of the Senate. But I’m saying this in capacity as Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, who represents the good people of Niger North Senatorial District.
“I read the newspaper report and I was disturbed, worried and I think for all intents and purposes, I’m very much disappointed.
“First and foremost, let’s underpin the issue as follows: I saw it clearly: former Group managing Directors – almost all of them numbering close to 10 or so. And what came to my mind is that how did we get here?
“The NNPC as an institution was expectedly the life wire of this nation. As we have all known, refineries that we have in Nigeria have not been functional because if they have been functional and if that institution had been up and doing in tandem with its peers in other countries that have similar resource endowment as us, we would not be where we are today.
“For crying out loud, all of these former GMDs, can they be said to be free of blame on how we got here?
“These refineries have not been working; the corporation itself has not been run transparently to the maximum benefit of Nigerian citizens.
“At least, I knew that it was just in this our change administration that the Minister of State (Petroleum), Ibe Kachikwu was able to tell Nigerians that the corporation had declared profit now because he has brought his wealth of private sector experience to bear on that corporation.
“As it is before now, which mean this is talking about just one year of this present government. But before now, going down the lane through the period of the 16 years misrule of the PDP administration, and even before then the military have all been there. Our refineries have not worked. All the problems we are having are as a result of all these people who are assembled now to be the wise men to tell us what should be done.”
He continued: “As far as I’m concerned, all of them that are speaking do not have the moral standpoint to even advise us on what to do because they had a hand in it.
“And I cannot see how you can solve a problem under the same condition that created it. Are we expecting these people’s advice to change the narrative?
“As far as I’m concerned, maybe they are sent to destroy this government. We will not allow them to do that because right now, Mr. President is grappling with inherited problems. He is trying his best to see that things are changed. And I think within this context, whatever it is we need to do to support him to succeed, we have always been ready as we have always done since we came on board to support him.'”
The senator added:”If you look at the arithmetic, if things had been well, it is now that Nigerians are even supposed to enjoy because the price of petroleum has crashed.
“If we are going to get the pains of not getting enough forex, we should have gotten the joy of having a lower price of petroleum product, which we are not getting right now because the institutional base for it which the NNPC fully represents, has been destroyed over the years by these same people who assembled to advice.
“So, no matter how well intentioned their advice is, it’s unfortunate that it is coming from that particular group of people because they have been part of the mess all along.
“I can’t see how they clean themselves out of the mess that is presently in the oil and gas sector.
“So, to my mind, they should have made their advice underground. But to come out in that strong manner, I see it as a slap on us because they are responsible for what we are getting.
“If they had left a legacy of a solid institutional base for the oil and gas industry, we wouldn’t have been in this situation today. You increase the price and add up to the crisis that Mr. President is handling, is that the way to go about it?
“No matter how well intentioned their aim is, while we trace the historical milestone of this organisation down the line and to see that these people at the individual levels have been responsible for the period of unaccountability, deep leakages that has characterised that industry.
“For them to come out today and tell us that this is what needs to be done, I don’t think they have sat down to think through what they were saying. They don’t have the moral foundation to advise us on what to do because they are responsible for where we are.
“My take is that the current effort that is being made to turn around this sector will continue.”
Speaking on why the PIB has not been taken beyond the first reading in the Senate, Sabi declared that the Senate resolved that its treatment be suspended following controversies arising from host communities’ funds component of the bill.
He, however, refused to state where opposition against the aspect of the bill was from.
Hear him: “The Senate is already primed because most experts have submitted that we need to do something about the PIB.
” And you know the Senate was billed in our own wisdom, rather than take the whole hog of PIB, to turn in to about one or two components, we wanted to take the management framework but because of the sensitivity of the host community relationship and benefit sharing issue, that issue met some brick wall even before it went ahead.
“And so, we thought it wise to keep it down. But I’m convinced beyond reasonable doubt that by the time we come back from recess, that issue will still get a front burner attention because it’s key to whatever changes we want to see done, going forward on a sustainable basis in the oil and gas industry.”