THE revelation by the Group Managing Director, GMD, of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru, that the importation of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, cost Nigeria $5.8 billion (N1.8 trillion Naira) since late 2017, came as a big shocker. It confirms the sad comment that in Nigeria, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress, APC, in 2014/15 campaigned on the platform of “Change”, pledging to fix our moribund refineries, establish new ones, reduce the cost of petroleum products which stood at N97 per litre for petrol and end fuel importation. They also promised to sanitise the state-owned NNPC, which had been a cesspool of corruption and ineptitude.
When President Buhari assumed the post of Minister of Petroleum Resources, it was justified on the ground that as a former holder of that portfolio 40 years ago, he had the experience to sanitise the sector. During the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan, over N6 trillion was spent on fuel imports between 2010 and 2015, with allegations of massive corruption trailing it.
The spending of N1.8trn on fuel importation in a few months by this administration could outstrip the amount spent in six years of the previous regime within four years! The refineries remain comatose, leaving the country hanging its hopes for local refining on the Dangote Refinery which is billed to come on stream in 2019.
Very little effort has actually been made to reform the oil sector. The forensic audit of the NNPC by the PricewaterhouseCoppers, PWC, in April 2014 which recommended a total reform of the NNPC to enthrone transparency, has not received any meaningful attention by the Buhari regime. The only change we see is a negative one because Nigerians are paying almost N50 more per litre of fuel.
We call on the National Assembly to look into the fuel import bill claims by the NNPC. It is difficult to believe that such huge amounts can be spent in this country without sleaze creeping into it. The National Assembly also has a big role to play in ensuring that the Petroleum Industry Governing Bill, PIG-B, still pending before it, is passed, ensuring that a total reform of the oil sector is achieved.
Nigeria must resume a firm march towards ending fuel importation. Modular refineries must be proliferated. The jobs we are outsourcing to foreign countries through fuel importation must be brought home to engage millions of idle Nigerian youths. We need to divert the huge sums we spend on fuel importation to addressing our crippling infrastructure deficits.
Fuel importation is a big threat to the nation’s economic wellbeing. We can no longer tolerate this expensive palliative.