Ezekwesili Seeks Deregulation of Oil Sector

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Dr. Oby Ezkwesili

Olaseni Durojaiye

Political leadership in the country was again called to question Wednesday as a former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezkwesili berated the management of the country’s oil wealth even as she decried the huge expenditure on fuel, increasing fuel consumption price and the constitution, which she said does not encourage savings to buffer the economy against economic challenges.

She berated the attitude of political leaders who always want to have control over the oil and gas sector. She added that once the sector is deregulated, most presidential aspirants would not want to contest for the position.

She made these declarations at a presidential debate tagged: ‘Oil sector, Reforms, Revenue and stabilisation’ organised by Order Paper Advocacy Initiative, yesterday in Lagos.

She spoke alongside development consultant, Tunji Lardner and Israel Aye.

While noting the poor handling of the country’s oil wealth, Ezekwesili reiterated the need to harness the proceeds of the natural resources to build critical infrastructural, drive human capacitydevelopment and to strengthen state institutions in order to make the local economy attractive to investors.

She stated that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) lacks market integrity, describing it as being run like an enclave business.

She added that it is a sign of leadership failure that there Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is still not in place over a decade after it was first mooted.

“I recall when this government first came in and there was the discussion of subsidy or no subsidy, and I said, it is supposed to be their opportunity to deregulate the sector. Deregulate the sector -stop wanting to have political control of oil sector. You don’t need it except if you are inclined towards certain kinds of things. Otherwise, deregulate the sector.

“The day the petroleum sector is fully deregulated; there are people who will never think of wanting to be president of Nigeria because for them that is the slothfulness of leadership. That is not the kind of leadership

that a nation like Nigeria deserves. Now we look at the fuel consumption figures, it is because the distortions permit unsubstantiated demands.”

“We have a constitution that does not permit you to save. It simply has a provision, I think in section 82 that once it enters, it should be distributed, so, to save money the leadership has to table it for discussion.

Referencing Botswana, she disclosed that upon the discovery of gold in commercial quantity the government of Botswana enacted fiscal and policy measures that made it mandatory to save certain percent of earnings from the product to be invested in critical sectors of the country, adding that the growth of Chinese economy was on the back of appropriate saving cultures.

Describing natural resources are vanishing assets with expiry dates, she stated that the real assets of any country without expiry date is the country’s human capital and argued that the route to go was for the country to channels proceeds from oil into building critical infrastructure and

human capacity development adding that the go to economy.

“Angola understand the dynamics of natural resources, they know that it is not renewable and has expiry date so what they are able to do is to translate the natural resources into massive investments in infrastructure,

invest in world class human capital and instituted reforms and building the right kind of institution that will attract investments into its economy,” she stated.

She further warned that if the country persists with the current attitude towards saving it could end up like Venezuela with a poor performing economy amidst massive oil and gas reserve, adding that Nigeria would benefit like is the case with Norway if it institutionalises saving part of its oil windfall.