Mr. Peter Obi, Labour Party presidential candidate has described fuel subsidy payment in Nigeria as an organised crime, noting that the government is also behind oil theft in the country.
Obi, who is the guest speaker at the Private Sector Economic Forum of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), asserted that no one can steal oil except the government.
Obi vowed to encourage the setting up of more local refineries by private firms and to supply them crude oil in naira to refine for Nigeria’s domestic consumption.
The LCCI had played host to the presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubarka last Tuesday.
The Labour Party candidate said his administration would totally liberalise the entire power sector value chain, including transmission, to ensure steady power supply if elected president next year.
Obi said: “Power is something everybody is worried about. I know very well that the federal government as of today has removed power from exclusive list to concurrent list. But I will go further than that. Our power problem today is that we have privatised generation and distribution but left power transmission untouched.
“For me, the first thing I will do to ensure steady power supply is to liberalise transmission. This is critical if you are going to deal with our power sector. We will support the existing companies in the distribution and generation arms by ensuring that there is a dedicated gas supply which is one of their problems today.
“We will ensure that the generation, transmission and distribution are properly aligned. We will ensure clear certainty of policy and regulatory environment for them to operate. We will support them with access to funding that is attractive and deal with some of tax incentives. We have to ensure that renewable energy is embedded in our power process.’
He said his administration would limit government involvement in the power sector to providing sovereign guarantees and policy clarity and certainty that would attract private sector investment.
“The issue of power will have to be an emergency that we will have to deal with all means possible to ensure that we have power. To have the resources to do this, we will involve the private sector. Government does not need to be entirely involved. Government involvement will be to provide sovereign guarantees,” he said.
Obi also stated that his administration would be decisive in removing petrol subsidy, tackling the security challenges afflicting the country and putting a halt to crude oil theft, pointing out that oil theft could not thrive without people in government participating in it.
He said: “If we come to government in 2023, one thing that we must decisively and aggressively deal with is the issue of security. Insecurity is the number one thing that is impacting Nigeria’s economic growth today. And I need to deal with it as quickly as possible.
“We need to overhaul the entire security architecture, including having multilevel policing involving the federal, state and community and equip them properly with modern gargets.
“Nobody will be able to kidnap, keep his victim somewhere and use phone to negotiate ransom with his victim’s family” without being caught.
Obi said subsidy as an organised crime and pledged to bring it to and end by encouraging the setting up of privately owned refineries.
He said: “Petrol subsidy is an orgnised crime. I have said it that 60 per cent of the subsidy is corruption. That will be dealt with decisively. Secondly, we will aggressively start to ensure the promotion of local refining that is private sector driven and supply them crude oil in Naira to refine for domestic consumption.
“If you deal with insecurity and our farmers can go back to their farms and we remove subsidy and deal with corruption our inflation rate will drop.”
The presidential candidate identified the large expanse of uncultivated lands in the northern Nigeria as the country’s greatest physical asset that his administration would invest in and cultivate to turn around the economy.
Obi, however, did not leave his audience in doubt that his administration would borrow and invest in infrastructure.
He said: “There is nothing wrong in borrowing. The difference is that if you borrow for consumption you will have a problem. But if you borrow for investments your economy will grow. The reason things are not working here is that we are borrowing for consumption.
“Debt is a component of development but it must be used efficiently and effectively for purposes that will bring value so that we get from the investment will be enough to service the debt.”
The President of the LCCI, Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole, in his welcome address told Obi that “while the chamber is non-partisan, we are however interested in the economic agenda of the candidates and their plans to make a better Nigeria in the next dispensation.
“The chamber is aware of the overshadowing effect of politics over economics in managing the Nigerian economy and would, therefore, wish to contribute to the setting of a new economic order that can take our economy from the doldrums.”