•Insists those against removal want to stagnate country
•Alleges massive corruption in downstream sector by the elite
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, has alleged that politicians benefiting from in-built sleaze in the petrol subsidy regime in the country are inciting the people against the government’s deregulation policy. Kyari stated this during an interview on TVC, a Nigerian television channel.
The NNPC boss stated that the “massive corruption” stopped by the removal of the buffer paid to petrol marketers by the federal government had prompted the unnamed wealthy Nigerians to move against the government. He reiterated that subsidy on petrol had never really benefitted poor Nigerians, saying it is the rich who own fleets of cars that are being subsidised by the government.
Kyari said even with the N162 pump price of the product, Nigeria remained the country with the cheapest price of petrol in the West African sub-region.
According to him, “When you say critics, I think you need to segment. When you make such a decision, who is really the beneficiary of this subsidy we talk about? It’s the elite that benefit from it.
“The massive corruption that you see in the downstream sector of this industry is perpetuated by the elite and you cannot avoid this situation except this deregulation takes place in the industry.
“I am not a politician, but there are politicians who are coming to play in this. There are people who may be current beneficiaries of some of the wrong things that happen as a result of deregulation who will be hurt by this and the next thing they will do is to pull resources together and incite people to see the removal as an act against the people of Nigeria.”
The federal government recently announced the complete removal of subsidy on petrol, a situation that jerked the pump price up to about N161 per litre, up from about N145. The product had sold for about N123.50 earlier in the year. The federal government has now decided to fully allow market forces determine the price of petrol.
The NNPC GMD said ordinary Nigerians would be the better for it if the current pricing regime was allowed to operate for a while, noting that the benefits will be seen by the country soon.
Kyari stated, “Nigerians will appreciate that what we need to do is to move towards market conditions. Today, we have the cheapest fuel, despite the removal of subsidy in the whole of the West African region. We understand that it can bring pain, that’s not in doubt, but there are things that are happening.
“This government has done things differently. During the COVID-19 lockdown there was an economic sustainability plan. And it’s simply to inject more resources into farming, into agriculture into small-scale businesses, and support businesses.
“More jobs will be created, people will earn more money and then they can have a decent living. This will bring down the price of everything because once production increases, you will see that there will be collateral impact on whatever we are doing.”
Kyari added, “What the critics want is for us to stagnate, stay where we are, where there’s no development, no infrastructure, schools will not be built, etc., and ultimately this country will remain where it should not be.
“We have seen significant progress in the last four to five years in this country. This needs to be sustained and you can’t do it without resources and those resources will not come except you create a clear balance between demand and supply. I am very convinced that this is the right decision to take.”
The NNPC GMD maintained that money saved from subsidy will not be stolen by government officials, contrary to what happened in the past, arguing that this government has displayed more discipline in the management of scarce resources.
He stated, “Some Nigerians will say that even if you save this money some people are going to steal it. This is a valid question because of what we have seen around and the past that we have seen, but it is also a question of leadership.
“When you have the right leadership, resources can be migrated to beneficial use and this has been demonstrated in the last five years, even with little resources.”
Kyari projected that oil prices will not hit $50 soon, so the effect on Nigerians will be minimal, admitting that all the four refineries are currently down because no refinery survives with less than 90 per cent capacity utilisation. He said in the past, Nigeria invited original refinery builders to work on the decrepit facilities, explaining that it did not work because it’s not their business to do so.
Kyari reiterated that private marketers were now not able to import because of shortage of forex, but noted that it was being resolved with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The GMD assured that the national oil company will soon publish its 2019 audited financial report, and Nigeria would see the massive discipline and improvement in its figures.
Kyari said NNPC was transforming into an energy company, from being just an oil company, adding that it is also aligning with the directive from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, on gas penetration.