Oil Subsidy Is Fiction-Okonjo Iweala Is Here To Seduce People To Accept The Callous "Oil Subsidy" Removal-Tam David West-TheNEWS
Professor Tam David-West
Professor Tam David-West, Petroleum Minister during the era of General Muhammadu Buhari, and Mines, Power and Steel in the General Ibrahim Babangida government, spoke with GBENRO ADESINA on the controversy over oil subsidy removal.
For the layman on the street, does oil subsidy exist?
There is no oil subsidy in Nigeria. It is a lie and fraud. After the regime of General Buhari, I challenged government after government, from General Ibrahim Babangida and Chief Ernest Shonekan to General Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to appear on national television with me to justify their subsidy.
Let me introduce you to the basics. Let us say a particular commodity like gari is sold for N10 per bag hypothetically and the farmers are producing to make us self-sufficient at N10. But at a time, they can’t produce enough because of either bad harvest or natural causes, the government now says since garri is a staple food, the government goes to another country where gari is produced and buys it at N20 per bag and brings it to Nigeria to sell at N10 per bag. The government now writes off the extra N10 –– that is subsidy. The extra N10 the government pays on behalf of the people for them to still buy at N10 is the subsidy paid on that commodity.
No government should exist if it can’t serve the people because government is a trust. They are trustees for the people. Edmund Burke, the great British philosopher, said that government is a contrivance of human wisdom and the wisdom should be used to satisfy people’s needs. Any government that can’t satisfy the need of its people is irrelevant and must be overthrown and kicked out.
Coming to petroleum, there is no oil subsidy. Oil subsidy in Nigeria is fiction, it doesn’t exist and it is a fraud. During Buhari’s time, we had three refineries. When necessary, I mean, whenever there was shortage of oil, we embarked on offshore processing. If at a time, the production of oil couldn’t satisfy our needs, we selected oil companies like Shell and others that we would give crude oil to refine abroad, sell at foreign exchange and pay to our account. We got quantum of barrels of crude oil and gave to these companies and after they might have refined it, let’s say they got one million litres and we needed only 200 litres, they would give us the quantity we wanted and sell the remaining and give us foreign exchange. We only took our fuel back, never imported fuel.
This time what do they do? These fraudulent people will take our oil, refine it and bring it back and sell it at foreign exchange. This is fraud in the highest places. Why is it that during Buhari era, with three refineries we were self sufficient but at their time, with four refineries we are now importing fuel?
I personally signed the contract of the fourth refinery which we call new Port Harcourt Refinery in 1984. It was one of the best in Africa, with a capacity of 160,000 barrels per day. The first refinery, in Port Harcourt, was built in 1965; Warri refinery in 1978, and Kaduna refinery in 1980. A newly constructed refinery can’t have major problem for about 30 years. The problem they will not tell you is that after Buhari, every Minister and Head of State became an oil sheikh, except General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Some ministers have petrol stations and oil blocs. You can’t serve the nation and serve yourself at the same time because you can’t serve two masters at a time. One must serve his country and the dividends of doing this is satisfaction. Total capacity of our four refineries is 445,000 barrels per day. If the refineries are working even at 80 per cent, we will have more than enough product. They did not do that but sabotaged our refineries.
I have been shouting since 1995 and I wrote that they are killing Nigeria and poor men. And in 2009, the House of Representatives corroborated me by saying that refineries were sabotaged. Abdulsalami as head of state, reacting to the state of our refineries, said he didn’t want to open a box of scandal. Why did they do this to the common man? Who are the importers? Big people!
A senator said this year, Nigeria spends N860 million on fuel importation and they projected that by the end of the year, over N1 trillion will be spent on importation of fuel when our budget is N4.3 trillion. Insanity! Dan Etete said they needed $250 million to repair the refineries but the same minister said Nigeria is importing fuel at $900 million. Is that not insanity? If you need this huge amount of money to repair refineries, why don’t you build new refineries? The money you are using to import, use it to build refineries.
Why do you think Obasanjo did not repair the four refineries we had and build four extra for petroleum to be sold at N20 as he analysed when he was in power?
Olusegun Obasanjo is a great liar. They will not do so in order to continue to import fuel for selfish reasons.
Is it true that Nigeria has the lowest prices of refined products among oil producing countries?
Forget Jonathan! He doesn’t understand what he is saying. He is only parroting what they told him. He talks like a parrot. Can he remove what doesn’t exist? Can’t we build our own refineries to serve us and remove the untold hardship they want to impose on us? Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the subsidy goes to the wrong hands. If they remove it, will people not suffer the more? Everything will increase. The new minimum wage of N18,000 will become N2,000.
But Obasanjo said because it is built in phases, it will take about five years to build a refinery?
It is a lie. I told you Obasanjo is a liar. It took just two years to build the fourth refinery. I signed its contract. It is between two and three years. The problem is that there is intellectual laziness and physical indolence. In developed countries, the president will not just talk without being well quizzed. But in Nigeria, at a media chat once, Obasanjo shouted on journalists or talked to them as a teacher. They kept quiet. It doesn’t take five years to build a refinery.
Okonjo-Iweala talked about cushioning the effect of the removal of oil subsidy?
Rubbish! She is sermonising to seduce people to accept the callous oil subsidy removal. Things she promised are palliative, nobody should agree. Labour and Nigerians should make it impossible because you don’t take away what doesn’t exist. We don’t need oil subsidy to build roads, provide water and electricity; vote for capital projects has taken care of that. Degrees don’t guarantee good governance.
Can a school certificate holder rule a nation?
Yes and very well. What degree does Shehu Shagari and Balewa have? School teachers. Winston Churchill was among the dullest in his class and he became one of the greatest British leaders. Degrees don’t make leaders. Leadership is a natural endowment or one acquires it by hard work.
Jonathan wasn’t born great, he said he was born poor. Rubbish! It is a privilege to be born into a wealthy home. I was born into a wealthy home but one can’t control where God puts you. I tell my son that he should not allow the wealth of his father to go into his head because his minister father could as well be a driver. You don’t regret where you were born. So, I didn’t have shoes or wasn’t born great is rubbish. God is not partial. He does things with reasons.
Being born humble is not an issue. How you articulate your humble situation is the issue. That you are born rich doesn’t say you should look down on people. The problem with Jonathan is that though he has Ph.D, he is a brilliant man, but there is a difference between native intelligence and book intelligence. Jonathan is basically brilliant. The danger in that is that such people whenever somebody like Iweala comes talking, they idolise them like mental geniuses and become internally inferior to them. Whatever they say goes –– garbage in, garbage out. He doesn’t have the stamina to challenge them.
For a prince to be advised wisely, he must be wise too. Iweala is not the most brilliant economist. There are hundreds of people more brilliant than she is. Pius Okigbo and Ojetunji Aboyade, they served the nation meritoriously. She is working with somebody psychologically inferior and she will lead him into a ditch. She talks like the president. She once said that government would not negotiate with the Niger Delta militants. Did they not negotiate later? She was paid in dollars when she served in Obasanjo’s cabinet and her monthly pay was N2.8 million and now she is saying oil subsidy is killing the economy. Hypocrite!
If you know that what you are doing is right, convince people in arguments, facts and figures, not by sermonisation. Now, they have hired consultants with millions of naira to convince Nigeria to accept their rubbish. It was done during Shonekan’s time when a Nigerian was given N20mn for public relations job. He collapsed. They have started again. Please, Senators, Honourables of the House of Representatives, throw out this bill. Don’t think and say we are safe in Nigeria. There could be corporate protest here, just like what is happening in the Arab world. If you do anything that will make Nigerians suffer more, they will go on the streets because the suffering is already too much. I can afford things but millions of Nigerians that form the majority cannot. They should know that government is not about commissioning or investment and profits. Government should have moral dimension. Any government that disregards the moral dimension, that is, respect of God, God will punish such for making Nigerians to suffer.
How do you react to the fact that governors have endorsed it and labour has tactically endorsed it with conditions?
All that is nonsense. NLC should represent the masses well. NLC should not give any condition for the consideration of the removal of oil subsidy. Government has ways of compromising labour. When things are hot, they can approach them with millions and buy them over and they will start to talk with double tongues. NLC should be firm. The government should publish the names of those that are importing fuel and government should sign that if it is removed and the effects are not felt between three and six months, then we must dissolve the present government. If they remove oil subsidy, l will lead a protest. I will organise students for demonstration.
Do you still have faith in Nigeria?
My dear young man, if I don’t have faith in Nigeria, I will not be talking to you. I still have faith in Nigeria. To keep Nigeria as one is a task that must be done. We should differentiate between metaphysical Nigeria and political Nigeria. Nigeria is a great country blessed by God. The way we are going, the political Nigeria will destroy the metaphysical Nigeria. Most of those in government are rogues and thieves. They love themselves more than Nigeria. Every Nigerian owes Nigeria more than what Nigeria owes him/her. Nigeria will change for better when we have more statesmen than politicians.
Now, we have a bunch of politicians who only think of the next election while a statesman thinks of the future. Nigeria will collapse if we have more politicians than statesmen. Nigeria is a country where a senator is earning more than the President of America. They even buy government houses. They spend billions on cars and they can’t pay N18,000 minimum wage. They have morally crippled the country and the governance. They will be destroyed by God. Nigeria is a great country –– no natural disaster, there are able men and natural resources. But people are still crying, no job, graduates are driving taxis, doing menial jobs. Many now engage in armed robbery because they have to survive. May God bless us with good leaders.
The worst enemy of Buhari says that Buhari is not corrupt and that is the truth. It takes integrity and rigidity not to be corrupt and lead the nation. You don’t lead like Jonathan. God will punish those that are punishing Nigerians and Nigeria. When the poor man weeps, the tears go to heaven and come down with burning fire and consume his enemies. And that is what will happen in Nigeria.