Nigeria will run into serious crises if the petroleum industry sector of the Nigerian economy is not fully deregulated, President Goodluck Jonathan has said.
The president said this on Thursday at the National Executive Council Meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party held at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja.
The president argued that the only way to avert impending doom on the country was to completely deregulate the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.
“We (I and the governors) have discussed it over and over and we have agreed that the only way is to resolve the problems – to completely deregulate the downstream sector of the oil industry – and relieve the pains on our people,” the president said, “Otherwise, this country will enter into serious crises.”
While the president made his argument in the party’s secretariat, his administration officials simultaneously pushed the same logic at a televised Town Hall debate organised by the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria.
“We are not taking the decision because we want to see Nigerians suffer,” the president said. “But we want to see a situation where more Nigerians will be able to get jobs; the economic activities to be able to be stimulated so people will have opportunity to survive with or without government.”
The president admitted the deregulation policy, whose major thrust is to scrap the current subsidy on petroleum products, would be harsh on Nigerians but said “Nigerians will benefit” in due course.
He likened the deregulation policy to the 2001 introduction of the Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) which saw SIM card prices selling for up to N45,000.
“As we progress, we really see that at the beginning, Nigerians knowing who we are will want to express frustration and exploit the issue and if you relate it to the issue of GSM in the country, then, to get a SIM card was a problem; people were hoarding SIM and creating artificial scarcity. So, we believe that the issue of distribution of petroleum products will be better handled if it is completely privatised and overall, surely, Nigerians will benefit,” the president said.
The president and his team briefed party members on the planned removal of fuel subsidy and expectedly got the endorsement of the party’s National Executive Committee.
“NEC … urged all Nigerians to embrace the project as a sure way to avoid the collapse of the Nigerian economy like some economies in Europe,” a statement by the party’s publicity secretary, Rufai Ahmed Alkali, said.