The continuous retention of minister of petroleum resources portfolio by President Muhammadu Buhari is massively hurting the Nigerian oil sector, industry watchers have disclosed.
Describing the oil sector as presently being in a “total mess” industry analyst, Mr. Dan Kunle, said “Mr. President’s retention of the portfolio has done more harm than good.”
Speaking exclusively with e360 in Abuja, he disclosed that the downstream is currently being plagued with crisis due to the absence of a substantive minister to articulate policy direction, a job he said the president clearly can’t combine with his enormous responsibility as Commander-in-Chief of the country.
“I thought he (President Buhari) was going to relinquish the portfolio after six months in office,” Mr. Kunle said, adding “I was thinking he will use the first six months to understand the historical problems and then appoint a substantive minister and advise him/her based on the problems observed, with clear directions for the appointee to fix the sector.
“If he had done that, by now we may not be in this mess, but he held on to the portfolio as if he had a magic wand,… and the industry continued to sink, until what we are having now where the industry in now in a total mess,” the expert told e360.
He observed that it was wrong for the federal government to be competing with the private sector that has been investing money in the downstream, saying the NNPC needs to hands off.
Kunle who was involved in the oil sector policy formation upon Nigeria’s return to democracy, said, despite his reservation about the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, he believes Mr. Kachikwu, given full powers, would have better proven a point than what he has done.
Notwithstanding that it is long overdue, Mr. Kunle urged the president to relinquish the portfolio and allow for a fast track of some low hanging issues that can still be rapidly remedied and maybe savaged by a substantive minister.
He strongly maintained that Nigeria needs a petroleum minister that can work with the Vice president, who is Chairman of the National Council on Privatization to look into the downstream segment of the industry and complete its privatization.
“The industry is in a mess completely, you have PPMC with the depots that are hanging, you have the refineries that are dead, liquidate them as they are,” Kunle advised the government.
“All the corners they want to apply now will further land us into more liabilities. Anybody government concession the refineries to are going to extract something out of government so that when the concession fails, they fall back on what they got. So we are entry into more crisis, but if you call those refineries for liquidation today, you cut the cancer,” the expert added.
Also sharing his frustrations on the matter, Mr. Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and Head, Transparency International (Nigeria), said, “I am an advocate that the President should relinquish that position, the presidency is too important for him to also spend time dealing with issues as a minister when other competent Nigerians can do the job.”
Arguing that the president cannot separate himself from the alleged fraud in the sector as it is, Mr. Rafsanjani said, “With all the fraud and scandal going on in that sector, it means the president will not be in a position to call anyone to order because he is in charge… who is the president going to hold responsible for the collapse and continues corruption in that sector when he is the senior minister?, so it is an indictment on the president.”
“He should understand that he does not need to be president and at the same time be minister of petroleum because the implication is that all the corruption going on in the sector is done with the endorsement of the president. That is a sad commentary,” Rafsanjani told e360.
He further noted that the refusal of the Buhari-led government to allow the council of public procurement become functional is also not speaking well for the president and the executive council.
Rafsanjani said, “An agency that was set up by law was undermined by the previous government and also by the present government, so it means there’s no difference between what that perceived corrupt government did and what this government that claims to be fighting corruption is doing. If they can’t allow procurement process based on the Nigerian law to work, it means they are doing the same game. Morality does not translate to good governance, so the president can hold his moralistic tendency, at the same time the rest of his team may not be in tandem with what he is doing, which is exactly what is happening.
He added, “The president is there preaching morality, discipline and anti-corruption but people working with him are doing exactly what the previous government did. So the inability of Mr. President to appoint sound patriotic Nigerians with requisite experience to man the country’s affairs is what is giving rise to these chauvinist, criminally minded political class trying to ignite crises all over the country because the president is not taking decisive and timely actions.”