Let There Be Sincerity In Subsidy Removal – Iwezor

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The proposed removal of oil subsidy by the federal Government next year has generated a lot of controversy that Nigerians from all angles are expressing their divergent opinions about it.

In his view, a Port Harcourt-based businessman, Mr. Emeka Iwezor says there is nothing wrong about removing the subsidy and there is nothing wrong in keeping it.

Speaking during an interview with our The Tide  in Port Harcourt, Mr. Iwezor, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Emic Communications Limited said, however, the removal if implemented will affect the ordinary Nigerian citizens.

According to him the bone of contention is the insincerity of Nigerian leaders or government to keep or fulfil promises. The government had earlier said that it would use the money that will accrue from the subsidy for the well-being of the poor.

President Goodluck Jonathan while clarifying the issue explained that the subsidy removal will stimulate private sector investment to bridge infrastructure gap and create incentives for investment in refineries and the petroleum industry.

“The only thing in Nigeria is the insincerity of our leaders on that subsidy. If the Nigerian populace are sure that when subsidy is removed, the money accruing from it would be used judiciously by our leaders, nobody will shout, nobody will talk, nobody will complain because in reality, nothing happens so people disagree with government decisions”, he stated, adding “if you are removing the subsidy, use it to improve or provide quality education for our children improve on electricity supply, improve on road network and use it to improve on security of the country among others. If all these are done, there will be no hullabaloo”.

He observed that Nigerians are complaining because they are very much aware that the subsidy when removed will end in the private pockets of Nigerian leaders and politicians,” so, that is why we are saying let’s keep the one we are seeing, that is what the common man is seeing because if it is removed, we can’t see it again”.

Nigerians, Iwezor maintained, are tired of what is called jumbo promises and “we have heard much of getting this well, getting that well all are lies. We have heard enough of unfulfilled promises.

Our leaders are corrupt, I don’t know who can take us to the area we are expecting. Who is going to be the Messiah of this country?”

He said: “In the 2011 Presidential election, people voted for Jonathan, like myself, not because he is from the Niger Delta but I voted for him because of his perseverance, his utterances, his physical appearance and felt that he will be a likely Messiah for this country but from what I am seeing as a Niger Delta man, he has a lot to do to be the kind of Messiah we are looking for to salvage us. He should change.

He noted that Nigeria as a nation is yearning for who could salvage her while the citizens are looking for who can bring them out of the doldrums for them to be like their counterparts other developing countries, adding “we shouldn’t be wearing innocent faces when we are dying. By my observation on President Jonathan’s 100 days in office, I scored him 40 per cent so far and in all aspects of our life as a country, nothing new is happening.

According to Iwezor, “I was shocked when I learnt that the Federal Government is being owed several billions of Naira and even bargaining to pay the money instalmentally. Why should that happen?

Calling for major overhauling of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the company Chief stressed the need to fish out the cartel that has been holding the country down and urged the leadership to build a political will to re-organise the whole system considering the fact that the NNPC is the life-wire of the country’s economy.

“If there is a mess or lull in the oil and gas sector, Nigeria is finished. The President should sack all the management  and make them cough out all monies embezzled  because we are aware of all the dirty deals going on in the corporation. Although petroleum products, especially fuel is at moment easily accessible at the filling stations, that’s not enough.

The Federal Government is not getting the real details about the NNPC and I put it to you that the company does not know the amount of crude produced in Nigeria”.

He regretted that the NNPC has no accurate statistics of what is being produced by the various oil and gas producing companies in the country as some of them operate illegally without the knowledge of the pilot firm, NNPC, pointing out that the companies have places they call “no-go-areas” where they carry out all sorts of illegal dealings.

“Why should Nigeria continue with such system whereby oil explored from our land is exported by other people thereby subjecting us to importation of finished products even when we have four refineries”, he questioned.

Iwezor recalled that when oil exploration started in Nigeria in 1956, the British Colonial masters signed what he called a Kangaroo agreement with the then leaders of this country as they (Nigerian leaders) were ‘blind folded’, saying that now that we are over 50 years in oil business, it has become necessary to write a new agreement with the oil companies.

He stated: “I don’t blame our leaders of those years because they had no choice but now that we have come of age, there should be a new agreement on how our oil should be explored and not that 40:60 ratio. The agreement should be such that will recognise the oil producing communities and states appropriately. Nigeria is an oil giant, so our leaders should take the bull by the horn and balance the equation to bring the country up to its expectations”.

On electricity supply in this country, the communication expert said “Nigerians are watching what the President has to do as he has been promising. We are waiting to see his plans materialise. If Jonathan’s government fails us, it will be bad and he will not believe his eyes about reactions of Nigerians. I am not a prophet but I hear what people say and their feelings so far.

“We all know how important power is in our daily life as well as the economic development of the country. The country’s economy lies in electricity and once power supply improves, there will be a lot of jobs as more investors will be attracted to invest in the country and shut down companies will resume operations. Government should not mind how much it is spending on power supply and it must also check the activities of manufacturers and importers of electricity generating equipment with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and other stakeholders in that sector”.

Some of these firms are out to sabotage the efforts of government at ensuring constant electricity supply to the consumers, Iwezor emphasised, noting that it requires a strong political will for President Jonathan to tackle the problem of power supply in Nigeria. He has what it takes to do it.

The business magnate underscored the need to privatise the power sector and open the business to competent firms under the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in that area. Constant electricity will create millions of job and new companies will spring up.

He opined that the problem of power is not caused by Nigerians but foreign companies who budget huge amount for the PHCN to sabotage government efforts and advocated the engagement of individuals and companies that can provide regular power for Nigerians and business organisations.

Many companies are spending heavily on diesel and fuel to run their plants, which is not meant to be. I know how much I spend in running my company on fuel and diesel and if any power generating company supplies me constant light and charges me about N10,000 per month, I will pay happily and employ more people. I service my generators and buy parts to repair them coupled with the pollution generated from them, Iwezor stressed.

So, the onus lies on the Federal Government to arrange the power sector in a manner that Nigerians will feel satisfied being part of a nation known as the giant of Africa, he said, pointing out that if the economy improves, it will benefit all and sundry including staff of the PHCN who are kicking  against the privatisation of the company. He said: “If the payment of the N18,000 minimum wage to Nigerian workers is the rationale for the subsidy removal and increase in fuel price, that idea should be jettisoned. The whole thing should be directed towards improving the welfare of the citizenry and boosting the economy of the nation. If that is done, I will use my office and whatever available with me to companion for the removal”.

If  the government is sincere and if the money will not be embezzled, Nigerians will be happy and support good plans of government, Iwezor declared and advised that “our oil and electricity installations should be properly secured and security agents  armed with standard weapons while being well motivated. There is poverty and insecurity in the land”.

Shedie Okpara