‘This Government Should Have Nothing To Do With Oil Subsidy’
Fundamentally, we are on ground zero where we find ourselves as a nation now. I don’t think there is any lower level Nigeria can degenerate into more than where we are now. It is important, now that we are on ground zero, to look at the opportunities the present situation offer instead of looking at the negative side of what we have gone through as a people. I believe strongly that where we are now offers a very good base to take off. I start with the issue of corruption.
The President has said that tackling corruption is one of his priorities. I am one of those who believe that confronting corruption is the bedrock of any plan being put in place. And what is dealing with corruption? It is setting up caveats that will control tendencies for abuse of existing process or approved process of doing things.
This is very important so that when people are taking certain steps that is corrupt, they already know that it is either they do it and get way or they do it and go in for it when they are caught.
The day Mr. President determines that we are going to get out of manipulating things and situations to suit our purpose, whether you are doing it in public procurement or in private business activities, is the day Nigeria’s journey to economic rebirth will begin in earnest. He is the chief shepherd of this country and should be able to display a body language that will tell people that there is no room for corruption any more.
In punishing the culprits of corruption, they should be made to refund their loot, which will be deployed into nation building.
You will agree with me that in a country of 170 million people, the best level of power generation we have enjoyed all through the last 16 years was when we got a little above 4,000 megawatts.
And I tell you that if say we are going to be industrialised, the mainstay is power supply. And the rule of the thumb for industrialisation is that if you are going to supply power to one million people, you need 1000 megawatts. In other words, if you have 170 million people in this country, for us to be at that level, we should be heading towards 170,000 megawatts.
At worst, we are supposed to have 10 per cent of that, which is 17,000 megawatts. But we are currently at 4000 megawatts maximum.
Meanwhile, our power supply level in the country now is 1,400 megawatts, which is much more below what we had in the 70s. The puzzle there is that in the past 16 years, we have invested more than $25 billion in the power sector without getting result.
And the rule of the thumb too is that if you are doing power generation, you need $1 million for one megawatt of fossil power.
So, if we have spent $25 billion for power, we should be able to say we have 20, 000 megawatts coming from it.
Power generation is not rocket science. So, it is a shame that in the 21st century, this country is still struggling on how to get even 5,000 megawatts after so much commitments and abundance of raw materials in gas, oil and coal, among others. And it is an investment that pays back if you get and set up the right team.
Meanwhile, we have quality well-honed engineers and technocrats who have caught their teeth in power generation in different parts of the world. So, Mr. President should be able to get the right team of professionals to fix our power sector.
Again, you know that under the power reform agenda of the immediate past administration, they handed over various generation and distribution zones to some private companies. How that will work I don’t know yet. But my concept is that if you are handling a system or a zone, you should take charge of generation, transmission and distribution.
That is what it should be because if you break it up, there will always be excuses and arguments at the end of the day, which is the situation now.
And it should not be the present situation of ‘Group of Friends’ ownership of power systems, most of which know nothing about power generation; they don’t even understand the investment process for a power system. That is why even now nothing has changed with all the reforms they have done because the concept of the reforms is flawed.
We cannot have any value from it unless there are steps to tie up the generation, transmission and distribution. So, the new government should really sit and structure a system that would be able to guarantee that people who are coming to play in the sector must have concrete plans that can be monitored.
Like I said, there are experts to helping this regard; but the government has to search them out.
The country was recently grounded over petroleum products scarcity. In fact, people bought fuel for as much as N500 per litre and the experience was horrible. The solution to this problem is total deregulation of the fuel supply system in the country. The government should hands off completely and throw it open.
The only thing is that the deregulation should be regulated. Regulated deregulation of fuel supply by ethical government monitoring will control the tendency to hijack the sector by cartels that will create another monopoly.
It will enable big and small players to participate both in refining and marketing of petroleum products, which is good for the people and economy. This is an immediate step the president should take. The president should not inherit this oil subsidy conundrum. It is a scheme that was created to distract our social polity and this government should have nothing to do with it.