2019: Presidential Aspirants Debate Oil Sector Reforms, Revenue
Some 2019 Presidential contenders in Nigeria brought together by OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative for a debate on needed oil sector reforms have described Nigeria’s oil sector as a crime scene that needs total cleansing.
The general elections are fast approaching and Nigerians are getting ready to make a choice.
While preparations are heightening, one sector that everyone coming into governance is looking at is the oil sector.
Crude oil sales have remained Nigeria's major source of revenue for decades, pushing to the backdoor, all other resources the nation has, including its human resources.
The debate held on Wednesday at the Eko Hotel, Lagos, saw the politicians vying for the position of the President in the coming election reel out a form of manifesto that focuses on the oil sector.
With the theme, ‘Oil Sector Reforms, Revenue and Stabilisation’, OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative said the debate was organised to give the contenders an opportunity to understand the needed reform in the oil sector and also offer them a platform to put before Nigerians their planned inputs should they win the election.
The Paper Presentations
Top in the list of issues in the sector discussed are; subsidy, Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the 'CABAL' in the sector.
Before the debate started, figures where reeled out by persons who presented papers on Oil Sector Reform, Revenue Savings and Stabilisation and then the Benefits To Nigerians.
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The urgent need for a reform in the oil sector was emphasised by an expert in the sector, Israel Aye, in his presentation. He said that Nigeria had one of the sloppiest licencing regime in the world.
“We carry on as if oil is going to be in play forever. We forget that once upon a time, it was coal.
“One of the things that has made it difficult for us to really nurture and grow the petroleum industry is segmentation,” he said.
He suggested proper segmentation of the industry, as practice in other nations for fiscal and regulatory purpose.
Mr Aye suggested that the PIB should be totally treated and passed to give Nigeria the result that other oil-rich nations were getting.
A former Minister of Education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, who spoke on the need for revenue savings and stabilisation, highlighted that Nigeria had earned over $755 billion in oil revenue between 1999 and 2017, but on the back of that, the nation has 83.6 million citizens living in extreme poverty – below $1.90 per person per day.
Mrs Ezekwesili said the oil sector had an inherent volatility in it that needed to be addressed.
“There is a tendency for the discovery of oil to make every other thing around a society uncompetitive and therefore a disincentive for people to focus on these other opportunities that they have to achieve their greatness,” she said, emphasising that Nigeria’s state of poverty was because of too much focus on crude oil revenue.
“Who oil epp?” was a question she asked that was also emphasised by Mr Tunji Lardner while making his presentation on the Befits of Crude oil to Nigerians.
He told the gathering that nothing would come from anywhere to solve Nigeria's problems except its people begin to do things right.
"All our slothfulness and corruption is captured in the phrase; God dey!," he said, but reminded Nigerians that only when things are done right that right results are received.
He also suggested that Nigeria must begin to look at investing in its human resource.
"How can you have 83.6 million people that are not just poor, but extremely poor?" he questioned.
For some of the Presidential contenders brought together by OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative, Nigeria’s oil sector is a crime scene that needs cleansing.
At the debate were Professor (Mrs) Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies (PDP), Mr Tope Fasua of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ARNP), Comrade Jaye Gaskia of the Sustainable National Party (SNP), Martin Orovo, Chike Ukaegbu, SKC Ogbonnia, and Professor Iyorwuese Hagher.
Reeling out his plan for the oil sector, Professor Hagher insisted that the sector was a crime scene because oil exploration had affected people’s health, sometimes resulting in deaths.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari should have looked at the plight of these people and "sign the PIB".
“Everybody in Nigeria is poor except people who should sign the Bill. Why should they care?
“This is a criminality that is not acceptable by me or anybody who is looking forward to greater leadership.
“I can guarantee you that if they don’t sign this bill before I am sworn in next year, it is the first thing that I will sign,” he said.
In Nigeria, several mentions have been made of a certain cabal each time there are issues in the oil sector, but Dr. Ogbonnia, a U.S. based Nigerian who had worked with the NNPC, said ending the activities of the cabal was an easy task that required strong political will.
He also said he would review the PIB and include proper mechanism for checks and balances.
“Who are those cabal that you are talking about? Those are the people who fund elections.
“Those are the people who gave President Buhari 45 million Naira last week. When they go back and bring in subsidy, it will scale through because they are compromised.
Professor Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies said oil subsidy regime must come to an end, insisting that her administration, if elected, would ensure that the reform would include a review of the constitution to make it mandatory that a certain amount from crude sales must be saved and not shared.
There have been several criticisms against the PIB, with some presidential contenders present at the debate saying the bill would not solve Nigeria’s problem, but Mr Fasua said passing the PIB into law "as it is" was a good way to begin.
“A lot of what will curb the activities of cabals are inside the PIB which should be reviewed and passed as quickly as we can.
“No law is perfect, but when you want to solve a problem, you pass the law, and begin to implement. When there is need for review, you review,” he said.
The presidential aspirant insisted that Nigeria was in a disastrous state.
Other aspirants expected to attend the event were Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Professor (Mrs) Remi Sonaiya, Adeshina Fagbenro-Byron of KOWA party and Dr. Yunusa Tanko of the National Conscience Party (NCP).
Others are Dr. Baba Datti-Ahmed (PDP); Omoyele Sowore of the Africa Action Congress (AAC) and Professor. Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Peoples Party (YPP).
None of them showed up.
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