…Gives conditions for fuel subsidy removal

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has vowed to fiercely oppose any attempt to privatize Nigerian refineries.

PENGASSAN president Festus Osifo, who spoke at the opening of the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the association in Abuja on Tuesday, also named the union’s conditions for the federal government to remove fuel subsidy.

He said: “our take on it has been been very clear. Government should fix the refinery. We do not support the sales of any of these refineries. We will fight it with every arsenal in our disposal. We don’t support these things. Fix the refinery, once you fix it government can now transit and become a minority shareholder. For example, like the case NLNG Model is working today because the Nigerian government owned 49% of the shares and the private sector owns about 51% of the shares. So we can replicate the NLNG model because it has worked in the past it is working today. So we can bring that to ensure that the refineries are working in the future.

“The National Executive Council meeting in Calabar, May 2016 Precisely, deliberated on the issue of subsidy and believe that the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry will actually grow much more if that sector is deregulated.

“And in the last seven years, we have actually maintained that stand, we have maintained a stand not minding some of the side effects. But again, if you look at the subsidy times, we tend to be trying to hold on to something why we are losing in some other areas. If you look at the cost of living has gone up drastically by over times three times four in the last two, three years. If you look at the driver of why the why the cost of living has actually moved to where it is today, is actually because of the fact that our exchange rate has plummeted. Before now, exchange rate used to be somewhere around100 Naira to $1, but today, it’s closely around 800 it will move beyond it to 800 sometime last year.

“So now why is this exchange rates moving up? Because we are not earning foreign exchange? Most of the money we ought to have earned as a country we are using them and the oil gas is where we earn about 80 to 90% of our foreign exchange but at the end of the day, this money is not being used in a subsidy,

“So that has shrunken our dollar reserve because our dollar reserve, That is actually why our exchange rate has plummeted. So now, if we address this problem”

Osifo said the nation must look at domestic refining and issues bordering on subsidy in order to improve its foreign exchange reserve.

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“If we address this Nigeria, the Nigerian government will earn more money from the crude oil sells and that money will go into to CBN, here it will shore up our reserves and it is support a lot of other import and the pressure on dollars and so when this happens, our naira will appreciate.

“So again when we look at one sector, we find a way how does it connect with the overall Nigeria economy.

“So we believe that if this is done, it has a way of having positive impact on our foreign exchange which will in turn have impact on the citizens.” He explained.

Speaking on the union’s conditions for fuel subsidy removal, he said: “Our position has also been that there are some basic things that government must do as well. Our push has actually led today to the rehabilitation going most especially in Port Harcourt refinery.

“Then we also to want encourage government, If you remove subsidy today, where are you going to put the money? for example removing subsidy can number one, solve ASUU problem permanently. So ASUU will never go strike on again. Who are the people that are attending public institutions? They are the children of the downtrodden, the politicians, their kids are all abroad. So if we can solve that problem permanently, That is a good one.

“If we can also use it in addressing healthcare. That is another good one. But again, because of the trust deficit over the years, it is all it is always a problem. That is why Labour and government will sit down to define the processes to the palliative that will be put in place for the Nigeria masses so that we will feel this impact when it’s finally done.

“If you take some of these money and you use them to build hospitals, those hospitals will be everlasting. If you use this money to quality roads, the roads will be there. If you use this money to address all the fundamentals that are affecting Nigeria, like the ASUU problem when you go to the universities and you address the the infrastructural challenges that we have in our universities today. There will be there for a very long while.

“So we are not saying that government should just buy one or two buses and after one or two years, the buses fade away, that is not what we are saying. But put this money in infrastructure that Nigerians can reckon with the things we can see the things we can measure, not the ones that you tell us that you are transferring conditional money transfer that may or you cannot verify.”