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‘Why Oil Revenue Didn’t Add More Value To Nigeria Since Independence’

Engineer Martin Onovo, a former presidential aspirant and key player in the nation’s oil and gas sector, in this interview with MOHAMMED SHOSANYA, spoke on the impacts and challenges of the industry in Nigeria’s 59th independence. Excerpts:

Nigeria will be 59 years of independence on Tuesday. How would you measure the impact of the oil sector therein?

The impact of the oil sector in Nigeria is very significant. The Nigerian mono-economic reality is the oil economy.  Currently oil revenue is over 70% of total national revenue and over 93% of total foreign exchange revenue.

Many oil producing countries like Norway and Saudi Arabia have used their oil revenue to develop their countries.

Unfortunately, in Nigeria, illegitimate leadership and corruption have dissipated our oil revenue. Since the oil boom of the early seventies, the few significant developmental initiatives we implemented were financed with oil revenue. The debt relief of the Obasanjo era was also financed with oil revenue.

The level of poverty  and  deprivation is still prevalent in Nigeria unlike other countries with large oil deposits. What is the problem with Nigeria?

The problem of Nigeria is the illegitimate, unpatriotic and corrupt leadership that continues to waste and steal our national resources.

If we look at Saudi Arabia, we can see how they used their oil wealth for significant developments in health, foreign relations and infrastructure. If we look at Norway, we see that they are in the top 5 in terms of ‘Standard of living’ worldwide and they have over a trillion US Dollars saved up in their ‘Sovereign Wealth Fund’. On the contrary, Nigeria is already in a debt trap and is still borrowing irresponsibly.

Did President Muhammadu Buhari’s do anything spectacular in the oil and gas sector first tenure and what do you think should be his agenda for the sector in the second tenure?

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Because of the incompetence, corruption and slothfulness of the regime, the development of the sector has been in retrogression.

Production declined, vandalism increased, capital and operating costs increased, reserve growth declined and fuel costs increased, corruption increased. The same way President Buhari’s government destroyed other sectors, it also impaired the oil sector.

What is your take on calls on the government to remove petroleum subsidies in the country?

The calls are senseless and unpatriotic. Very senseless. These subsidies have been removed over 20 times since 1970 and each time, the economy became worse. How can any reasonable person propose a remedy that has failed 20 times.

This same Buhari government a few years ago removed the subsidy and declared a profit but the economy is worse today. They do not understand the ‘Price Cyclone’ associated with increasing the cost of imported petroleum products. Mediocrity remains a major problem in Nigeria.

What is your position on the oil drilling that has been going for some time in the Northern parts of the country?

Another senselessly developed and implemented political enterprise.

Current technology in exploration and production is such that wild cat success ratios are very high but the blind leaders of Nigeria and their blind appointees continue to waste national resources with impunity.

Some International Oil Companies are currently locked in legal dispute with the federal government over non remittance of royalties. Do you think the govt ought to have explored alternative resolution mechanism to resolve the dispute?

The laws of Nigeria require companies to pay Royalty. Government must diligently collect all royalties.

A responsible and ethical government will have since developed and efficient system of collecting royalties without disputes. Another case of incompetence, corruption and mediocrity.

What impact will it have on their investment and future dealings with the federal government?

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The principal considerations of IOCs for investments are security, politics and profit. That may not change. They seek the safest and most profitable opportunities except when they have political motives.

There were concerns that over the past two decades, no single refinery has been completed  in the country inspite of the noise. What is responsible for this and can the government to encourage private investment in refining?

The government is incompetent, unpatriotic and corrupt. They have failed in this and in all their published national priorities. They will continue to fail as long as they choose the wrong motives and follow unethical paths.

Do you think Nigeria should privatise its refineries in order to bring them alive?

No! Those that wish to invest in refining can obtain private refinery licences and build their own. We should fix our refineries and run them professionally.

The Federal Government has commenced its gas commercialisation program aimed at reducing gas flare in Nigeria. What are your thoughts on this program?

We must not allow the current FG to continue to deceive our people endlessly.

We should hold them accountable for all their previously published programs and deceitful communications. The government announced the commencement of the very simple maintenance of failed sections of Enugu – Onitsha express way since 2016. Three years after the deceit continues.

This government is incapable of any productive program. It has failed in all its published priorities viz., Anti-corruption, Security and the Economy. It will continue to fail as it continues with massive corruption, incompetence, mediocrity and perverse politics. {Sunday Independent}.

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Updated: September 29, 2019 — 2:26 pm

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