Atiku: I’ll Name, Shame, Prosecute Crude Oil Thieves
*Meets Dangote, Otedola, Ovia, Elumelu, others
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, in an interactive session with the leaders of Corporate Nigeria in Lagos, vowed to name, shame and prosecute crude oil thieves, if elected president in 2023.
The meeting, which took the form of a panel discussion with Atiku and his running mate and Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, was attended by prominent Nigerian business leaders, including Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Tony Elumelu, Jim Ovia, Oba Otudeko, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Herbert Wigwe, among others.
The session, which was moderated by popular financial expert, Tilewa Adebajo, focused on six thematic topics, including security, fiscal and monetary matters, power, oil and gas, infrastructure and manufacturing.
Speaking at the event, the former vice president said he would confiscate all oil blocks allocated to some Nigerians, who have failed to make them operational.
“If you are not going to develop oil blocks given to you, we will take it away and give it to those who will develop it. We will also assemble the names of those involved in oil theft, publish the same and prosecute them,” Atiku told the stakeholders.
On his plans to boost the oil and gas sector, Atiku recalled that the administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo had set a production target of four million barrels per day.
The plan, he explained, would be resuscitated and sustained beyond the projected figure, pointing out that to do this successfully, the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and any other enabling law would be invoked.
“When we were in government, we started this process. However, there were hiccups. We were unable to pass the legislation to encourage international oil companies (IOCs) to partake in the sector. We will go back to where we started,” he said.
He added that the Brass and Olokola LNG projects that started under Obasanjo’s administration will be given more attention under him.
“We will continue if we have the opportunity. As you know, joint ventures are good because they are investor-driven,” he said.
He reiterated his commitment to privatising the refineries in Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Warri, saying, “I swear to God, I’ll privatise them.”
Turning to the fiscal challenges of Forex, and monetary policy, Atiku said, “I believe that we should have a Forex policy that allows a convergence. I don’t believe in a multiple Forex policy that currently applies.”
Atiku promised convergence of the foreign exchange market, ensuring price stability and promoting trade deals that will inject more foreign exchange into the economy, as well as ensuring the independence of the CBN.
He said to stabilise the forex regime, loopholes in crude oil production would be blocked, emphasising that he would encourage local production and “not control of public expenditure.”
“Dollarisation or otherwise of the Nigerian economy depends on the strength or weakness of our economy. If we strengthen our economy, you don’t need the dollar. The naira can be strengthened by the number of jobs created and exports,” he said.
According to him, the monetary policy would be such that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would be independent.
“Monetary policy and other related items would be liberalised. Without price stability, the economy does not work for anyone; and job creation and poverty eradication cannot be attained.”
“CBN will take responsibility to deliver price stability, although inflation is a global phenomenon and a product of strong demand and limited supply.
“But none of these stops the CBN from carrying out its duty of price stability and single window fiscal regime,” the PDP presidential candidate said, pointing out that “some of these economic and financial challenges existed in 1999.”
“We were responsible for enacting the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA). We tried to schedule the repayment of debts and we succeeded. If we did that, you can trust us again to address the current problems.
“With this experience, you should trust that we can bring the monetary policy back on track,” he further added, indicating that it is disturbing that “the country is moving backwards.”
“These have grave consequences for job creation and long-term growth. The key sectors are not growing or growing slowly. There are acute fiscal challenges. The manufacturing sector is declining. 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor, meaning they have restricted access to education, healthcare, housing and rural facilities. These are the reasons we are engaging you today,” he stated.
On power, he noted that his administration would pursue short, medium and long-term projections in the power sector.
In his remarks, Okowa, who listed some problems facing the Niger Delta region as community agitations, high-powered illegal bunkering and breaching of oil pipelines by vandals, said the Atiku administration would embark on technology-driven surveillance and other solutions to tackle the problems.
“On the issue of security around oil installations, it is important that we understand what the issues are and those issues have to be situated properly.
“The engagement with the local communities is very important and while doing that, we don’t leave those communities behind in terms of infrastructure and development, which creates hope and partnership with them,” Okowa said.
The national chairman of the PDP, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, expressed appreciation to corporate Nigeria for gracing the occasion, assuring them that they are engaging with the right party.
“There is going to be continuing dialogue. When we take over power next year, we will continue to engage you,” he said.
Both Governors Udom Emmanuel and Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Akwa Ibom and Sokoto states, who are the Chairman and Director General of the Atiku/Okowa presidential campaign team, respectively, urged the stakeholders to support Atiku for a better Nigeria.