Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Monday said the Federal Government was targeting 2019 to end fuel importation in the country. Kachikwu disclosed this when he was speaking at an interactive session on removal of fuel subsidy organised by Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), in Lagos. “For the first time, I am putting so much strength in terms of what do we do with our refineries, because that ultimately is the solution. “I must make the refineries work so that the staff can justify their work. “I am going around looking for investors to come in a joint venture basis to put in money into the refineries and make them work. “I can authoritatively say to you that given the constraints that we face, the plan is that by December 2018 we should have reduced our importation of petroleum product by 60 per cent. “This is because we would have brought enough money to get our refineries working to the tune of about 90 per cent,” the minister said. According to him, for the first time in 10 years, the three refineries are working but at less than 40 per cent capacity. He said by the time the refineries were working at optimal capacity and the commencement of production by Dangote Refinery in 2019, Nigeria would be able to refine 1.4 million barrels per day. Kachikwu said his desire was to increase the current production capacity from 2.2 million barrels per day to 2.6 million barrels within the next few years. He said the government’s decision to remove petrol subsidy, which led to an increase in the pump price of petrol from N86 to N145 per litre was a good decision. The minister said the subsidy regime was no longer sustainable because of the various fraudulent practices by oil marketers and other players in the Continued from page 1 sector. He said between 2012 and 2015, Nigeria paid almost N8 trillion as subsidy, such monies could have been used to provide critical infrastructures for its citizens. Kachikwu said the liberalisation of the sector would encourage competition and bring the price of fuel down within the next few months. Kachikwu also revealed that country was subsidizing fuel for the whole of West Africa rather than Nigerians alone. He explained that subsidy had to be removed from petrol because the policy was no longer sustainable as the government is broke. He said even ministers of the government, they do not have accommodation. Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information who was also at the town hall meeting concurred with Ibe Kachikwu as he said “I’m squatting in Abuja”. The minister said President Muhammadu Buhari cannot approve 20 million naira for ministers rent due to low government income. When asked why the fuel queues disappeared immediately the government pegged the pump price of petrol at N145 per litre, Kachikwu said “those who were in the petroleum business for hoarding sake left because there was no need to hoard.” The minister said if Nigerians want fuel at the cheapest rate, then citizens must not complain about roads, security and other infrastructure.
Current difficulties birth pangs, says Buhari Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has described the difficulties Nigerians are going through as “the birth pangs of a great future’’. Buhari, who gave the description at the official inauguration of some projects in Lagos on Monday, said that the Federal Government was fully aware of the difficulties Nigerians “have had to go through’’. The President, who was represented by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, however assured Nigerians that the pains would eventually give way to prosperity and bring about the desired success of the country.
“I want to also say on behalf of Mr President that we are fully aware of all of the difficulties that Nigerians have had to go through, but these difficulties are birth pangs of the great future. “This country is going high and it is going to be a great nation indeed. This country is going to be a nation where there will be abundance and there will be prosperity. “But there are teething problems, there is a lot of repair to be done; there is a lot of re-adjustment to be done.
“There is a lot that we have to do to ensure that our country becomes the kind of country that it really should be. “A lot has happened in the past that has done a lot of damage and we must repair that damage. “It is that damage that is being repaired that you see today. A lot of it are the birth pangs and the birth pains that we are seeing. “But Mr President has asked me to assure every single Lagosian and every Nigerian that we are on the path of progress.“
Buhari commended the Nigerian Labour Congress for deciding to work with Federal Government not only to ensure the liberalization of the petroleum products market but to “make fuel supply more efficient and profitable’’ as well. According to him, competition in the petroleum market will reduce the price of fuel in the country. The President said that 30 per cent of the 2016 budget would go to funding of infrastructure, especially rail and road projects.
He also said that the Federal Government had set aside N500 billion for social investment that ensure that 500, 000 graduates were offered direct employment, while 370,000 non-graduates would be offered vocational training. He added micro-credit would be provided for one million market women across the country.
He urged Nigerians to be patient as the current administration had a lot to offer them. Osinbajo inaugurated the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Rescue Unit and the Ago Palace Road Project on behalf of President Buhari. He also handed over Pick Up Vans and Power Bikes provided by the state to security agencies on behalf of the President. Earlier, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos, commended the President and assured him of the state’s commitment to improving the operations and welfare of its security agencies. Ambode said the rescue unit was set up to reduce the response time to emergencies in the state.