Until fuel subsidy is removed, fuel crisis remains imminent —Kachikwu
By Michael Eboh & Princess Owoh
Minister of State for petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, yesterday, stated that until the downstream sector of the Nigerian petroleum industry is liberalized and subsidy of petroleum products removed, the country would continue to struggle and face challenges in terms of ensuring stable fuel supply.
This came as President Muhammadu Buhari said that the oil and gas sector was strategic to the growth and development of the country, and would continue to remain relevant for a long time to come.
Speaking in Abuja, at the presentation of the key achievements of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in three years, 2016 to 2018 and award to staff of the ministry, Kachikwu, argued that to address fuel supply challenges, the country needed to find a way to satisfy the need to provide products sufficiently for the populace and at the same time to be able to free the sector for growth.
He said, “In the midstream and downstream sectors, we have struggled. I would love to see a day when there would be no fuel scarcity in this country. But for that to happen, there are certain realities. The liberalization of the sector is going to be a panacea to being able to solve this. As long as we continue to subsidise products, create market-unfriendly type practices, we would continue to struggle.
“We are not going to trade our way out of the fuel crisis by bringing sufficiency, by expanding reserves, by extravagant costs which cost the country a lot of money; that is not the solution. The solution is to get our refineries working.”
Kachikwu noted that investments are lacking in the petroleum sector, adding that over the years, refineries’ turn around maintenance, TAM, had been fraught with faulty models which had hampered the effectiveness of the refineries.
Focus on refineries’ revamp, not my resignation
He also lamented calls for his resignation over his statements on the refineries, stating that emphasis should instead be on making the refineries work and on milestones achieved by the present administration in the area of refineries’ revamp.
He said, “If my leaving office brings products to the Nigerian populace, then that is it. But that is not the issue. The issue is that until you fund and build the refineries, until you find the investors and they work, you are not going to solve the problem. I am mindful of that, I am working very hard with the NNPC on that; NNPC is driving that process; I am the policy driver, they are the mechanics of that process.”
No government spent on refineries’ repair
Continuing, he said, “What is important is that for the first time, the President had been able to say that he would repair the refineries without government money. Nobody had been able to give attention to that.
“No government one penny had been spent on any refinery. Every effort we are making is to go find private investors to collaborate with us, save government money and be able to put these refineries in working order. Let us focus on being able to deliver instead of focusing on my head.”
Oil output to hit 3mbpd in 2020
Kachikwu added that the Federal Government was targeting that by the end of January 2019, the country’s crude oil production would have grown to about 2.2 million barrels per day, while by the end of 2019, crude oil output would have hit 2.5 million, based on the coming on stream of the Egina field and the recently approved 30 field works which have the capability of increasing Nigeria’s output by 500,000 barrels per day.
“If we work hard enough by the end of 2019, and 2020, we ought to begin to see Nigeria’s production rise from the usual 1.8 million to 2.0 million barrels, up to between 2.5 million and three million barrels. This is the target that I had set in 2015,” he declared.
Oil sector would remain relevant for long — Buhari
In his presentation, President Muhammadu Buhari maintained that the oil and gas sector was strategic to the growth and development of the country, and would continue to remain relevant for a long time to come.
He said, “As you are aware, a lot is still required to bring about investments and make the oil and gas sector in Nigeria investors’ destination.
“At this juncture, I want to congratulate the ministry of petroleum resources, and all the agencies and ministries for the successes recorded in the last three years; 2016, 2017, and 2018. Behind every success, there are also lessons and more others to cross.”