Nigerians must take their eyes off the price of Premium Motor Spirit (popularly known as petrol) to allow for the emergence of a new economy in the country.
Reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech to mark the nation’s 60th independence yesterday, Director, Aspen-Energy, Israel Aye, argued that while the price of petrol might sustain its rising profile, Nigeria must remain truthful to deregulation of the downstream sector.
He said what government had done over the years was to allocate resources meant for critical social sectors like health and education to payment of subsidy.
“Are most Nigerians better for it after paying subsidy for many decades? The economic system that Nigeria has been running is exporting jobs and importing poverty. This has been proven right by the continued rise in poverty among Nigerians in the last few decades,” Aye stated.
He argued that the highly sought jobs are not actually located in the international oil companies (IOCs), which “which have hired less than 10,000 workers with the sector contributing less than 10 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”
But a former Chairman of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi, observed that the President’s submission was one side of the coin that failed to examine the purchasing powers available to workers in the two countries – Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.
He hinted that 60 years after the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity, the most populous black nation “does not have a petroleum industry yet, but an extractive industry where resources are harnessed and sold in their raw forms with little or no value addition.”
Amadi contended that while it “makes no sense for petrol to be cheaper in the country, it also makes no sense for salaries and allowances to be smaller in Nigeria than Saudi Arabia, and for Ghana to have better roads and lower transport costs than Nigeria.”
He insisted that public policy needs an expansive cost-benefit spreadsheet, adding that “In Saudi Arabia, minimum wage is over N200,000, and in Nigeria, it is N30,000.”
According to StatiSense, while minimum wage is $67 in Nigeria, it is $156 in Algeria, $58 for Angola, Egypt has $68, $110 obtains in Chad, $255 in Gabon and $59 subsists in Ghana and Kenya.
IN the meantime, the Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has criticised the Federal Government for spending N1.7 trillion on the sector without commensurate supply to Nigerians despite its privatisation.
It argued that while Nigeria was still struggling with 4,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, the sum spent in the last seven years could have increased generation to between 15,000MW and 20,000 MW.
Addressing the media yesterday in Lagos, the union’s General Secretary, Joe Ajaero, who maintained that the sector remained in limbo, challenged the Federal Government to allow his association take over from the Distribution Companies (DisCos) to turn the industry around.
As a member of the committee on tariff adjustment, Ajaero expressed concern that the Federal Government had continued to invest more money in the electricity sector after privatisation without the desired result, insisting that the privatisation was designed to fail.
“The policy is exploitative and to that extent, it has achieved its purpose. It will keep Nigeria and the consumers dry and it will ultimately destroy the economy, if not squarely addressed,” he said.
He alleged that some of the investors are mere traders who were not experienced enough to man the sector, adding that members of NUEE were the engineers who are qualified to run the sector more efficiently.
“NUEE is ready to takeover the DisCos. With our expertise, we challenge the investors to let the union run the system, because we have the best materials and capable hands.
“Some of the investors are traders. Government has been using the workers’ expertise to maintain the sector up till this moment. They have increased tariff five times. Who is this private sector that government is using their money to finance? If the DisCos are tired and as a result, a management committee should be set up and we are going to run it,” he added.
Ajaero further noted that as far as the power sector was concerned, Nigeria was still far behind, stressing that constant spending on the power sector, which had been ceded to private investors was unacceptable.