Buhari, Atiku Supporters Clash Over Calls for Privatization of Refineries

Supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar are currently engaged in a war of words over calls by the former Vice President for the privatization of some aspect of the nation’s oil and gas sector.

While supporters of the President under the auspices of the Buhari Media Organisation described Atiku’s call for the privatization of the oil and gas sector, especially the refineries as callous and anti-people, the All-Atiku Support Group the criticism was a display of poor knowledge about modern economic management.

The former Vice President who is one of the front runners for the PDP presidential ticket was quoted as saying that he would embark on privatization of the oil and gas sector if he is elected President in the 2019 elections.

In a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja and signed by Coordinator Austin Braimoh, and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, the group says it finds unpalatable “the texture of this proposal at this point in the development trajectory of our country.”

The group says it is “rather simplistic for any presidential contender with avowed love of the mass of the Nigerian people to join the advocacy for the sell-off of our national assets, especially the ones that most impact the standard of living of the huge population of Nigeria’s poor and struggling middle class.”

The Buhari Media office said it was amazed that “an eminent Nigerian in the class of Alhaji Atiku would propose the privatisation of the oil and gas sector, inclusive of the refineries, when it is obvious that the privatisation of the refineries directly translates to increased price of petroleum products, especially the widely-used Premum Motor Spirit (PMS) with dire consequences on high transport cost aggregating in high inflation rates with massive decline in the standard of living of the people.

According to them, it was obvious that Alhaji Atiku is merely amplifying the long condemned International Monetary Funds (IMF) recommendation for commercial pricing of petroleum products when, in fact, it is established that such products must be socially priced.”

BMO says Nigerians have resisted “and will continue to resist the IMF and any of the Bretton Woods institutions’ intervention in policy reforms of the national economic template in the understanding that these policies are anti-people in orientation and outlook.

“Our position is that any private entity that desires to own and operate companies in the oil and gas sector, especially in the refinery subsector, should go ahead and secure license and establish their own refineries. Businessman, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has shown example in this regard with his 650 thousand barrels a day refinery in Lekki, Lagos State.

“It is appropriate to question, at this point, the going status of the many public corporations sold off at highly undervalued rates to cronies and fronts of high government officials between 2002 and 2007 when Alhaji Atiku was the nation’s Vice President. Status reports on the various operations of these corporations indicate vastly diminished operations and viability.

“Thankfully, we are already experiencing a revival in the oil and gas sector under the disciplined superintendent of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The refineries are recording increased refining capacity while gas supplies to electricity generating companies have increased by more than 100 percent over the last 12 months.”

But the Coordinator, Mr. Oladimeji Fabiyi All-Atiku Support Group described the criticism as a display of poor knowledge about modern economic management.

Fabiyi said “What the BMO has done by its criticism of Atiku’s proposal is to further expose its lack of knowledge in the ways modern economies are run. As it is today, the NNPC is unprofitable, unwieldy and not accountable. Compared to its contemporaries like Petronas of Malaysia and Petrobras of Brazil which have since liberalized and modernized its operations, the NNPC still riddles in inefficiency and obvious lack of capacity.

“There are clearly good examples of how liberalization of some sectors of the economy had benefitted Nigerians such as in the telecommunications industry and the banking industry. If the Obasanjo/Atiku administration had held on to NITEL, we wouldn’t have had the GSM revolution.

“If our commercial banks were not recapitalized, we still would be having failed banks. It is important to note that similar groups to the BMO had opposed the banking consolidation and telecoms revolution as anti-people, but history has shown that they were wrong.

“The trend the world over is for countries to liberalize the downstream sub-sector of the oil sector to improve efficiency and ensure product availability at all times. We are surprised that the BMO is ignorant of Saudi Arabia’s celebrated decision to privatize Aramco and raise needed cash to fund its social and economic services.

“We know exactly who the masquerades are: they are the very people who feed fat on the misfortune that has befallen the refineries – largely as a result of the inaction of the government.

“What will happen when the NNPC is liberalized is that the company will be more transparent and accountable and Nigerians can actually buy into the shares of the NNPC. Maybe, by that time too, we could have energy revolution.

“Tying the proposal for the liberalization of NNPC to ‘amplifying the long condemned IMF recommendation’ smacks of illiteracy and a poor attempt to hoodwink Nigerians about the shadiness in the operations of the NNPC.

“For an administration that campaigned heavily about jettisoning subsidy regime and ‘stabilizing global oil prices’ coming out to criticize a workable idea to liberalize the country’s oil and gas sector is unfortunate to say the least.

“Today, this administration pays over N1.4 Trillion annually on subsidy on fuel consumption in Nigeria, a staggering 386% when compared to the figure of N774 million daily given in March this year. Till this day, ordinary Nigerians have no idea how much revenue the NNPC makes in crude sales and the NNPC continues to drench in corruption without transparency and accountability.

“The contradiction inherent in the position of President Buhari on subsidy is evident for Nigerians to see. After saying there was no subsidy, to making Nigerians buy fuel at the highest price in the history of this country without palliative or cushioning effects to Nigerians and now paying over 1 trillion naira on subsidy. This same contradiction attendant upon by shallow understanding of economics is what leaves Nigeria with a jumbled compassless economy devoid of defined ideology. The world has moved beyond indecision.

“You can’t be going to the US to negotiate free market deals in the name of wooing investors while coming home to frustrate any genuine attempt to free the economy. The most fundamental question is what has the Buhari administration done to the refineries? Three years down the line, Nigeria still imports fuel. And some people want us stuck to a past that does not work. We need a present that can make Nigeria work again.”

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