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Despite Public Outcry, FG May Re-Visit De-regulation, Says Maku

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SAN FRANCISCO, March 20, (THEWILL) - Indications have emerged that the Federal Government may soon re-visit the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry despite the opposition that led to its being jettisoned when the idea was mooted last year.

Minister of information, Labaran Maku, gave the indications, Wednesday, while briefing journalists after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Maku said the issue was a major challenge last year and the president had to put it on hold because many calls were made on him not to implement the policy.

Also at the briefing on Wednesday, the Ministry of Housing rendered its stewardship for the 2012 financial year.

The minister, Ms Ama Pepple, was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Muhammad Mahe, the Director of Architectural Services in the ministry, Arch Sani Gidado and the Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Arch. Terver Gemade.

Meanwhile, the ministry of housing pointed out some of its achievements including that delivery of 8,069 houses in 2012. According to Mahe, under the ministry’s prototype housing scheme , 256 houses have been built in three cities.

He said the ministry has also entered into partnership with private companies to build houses in Taraba, Gombe, Kano and other states just as more houses were built and sold through banks and the Federal Mortgage Bank.

“The ministry has created a PPP unit to work in partnership with the private sector to deliver houses to the people while 720,228 jobs were created in the housing sector with the aim to make housing provision more efficient,” Mahe said.

He also listed the major problem being faced by the ministry as the issue of land procurement, observing that approximately N2 billion was needed last year for that purpose but the appropriation for same was slightly above N100,000 million. “We hope that there will be an improvement this year,” he noted.

Other problems, according to him, are poverty, shortages of houses and proliferation of slums that needed to be upgraded, implementation of the Land Use Act of 1978 and multiple charges levied on prospective land owners in the process of acquiring title deeds like Certificates of Occupancy (C of O).

On the deregulation, Maku said despite the criticism of the policy by some Nigerians, an overwhelming majority are satisfied that its implementation is crucial to the up-scaling of the oil and gas sector so as to curtail corruption and develop the nation.

He lamented that the Federal Government was currently losing huge sums of money to the payment of subsidy as Nigerians continue to suffer from lack of infrastructure and payment of extra amounts to avail themselves of services from the oil and gas sector.

“Without de-regulation,” Maku insisted, “there will not be a regulated downstream sector. Currently government is losing, the people are losing because we cannot generate jobs. The potentials that the oil and gas sector could have unleashed on the country is completely truncated. But the effort is continuous. Government will not relent on its effort to convince Nigerians so as to reverse the trend of Nigerians suffering as a result of the subsidy of fuel."

On the spate of insecurity occasioned by the activities of the Islamist insurgent group, Jama’atul Ahlus Sunnah Lid Da’awati Wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, the minister said his ministry has done a lot to create awareness among people of the country.

Maku said that following a meeting of the National Security Council last year, a template on security awareness was adopte by all states.

“The overall objective of terrorism is to bring down government and scare Nigerians. All the agenda of the group are anti-Islamic. People everywhere in the North are suffering. But our effort has showed Nigerians the impact of terror on the Northern economy. That has exposed terror for what it is today. Most stakeholders in the North are joining the debate.

“Today, Christians and Muslims are not fighting as government has de-escalated terrorism. Most of the fight against terror, particularly in Kano involves people of the community. The ministry also did a little campaign in the communities between Dadin Kowa and Bokkos in Plateau State. Now both Christians and Muslims are now working against elements of terror.”

Speaking on the National Good Governance Tour, Maku described it as a huge success, saying no single state rejected it.

“The ministry went round to Abuja, Niger, Plateau, Nassarawa, Benue and other states. What is crucial is that the tour has generated competition between states. This heavy competition is promoting development within states and even within ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

“I believe that there must be cooperative federalism. I am not here to run down states or promote them. If there is anything wrong we project it. The argument that the tour is anti-progress is puerile. The Citizens Forum hosted during the tour has brought the people closer to their governments. What we have done with the tour is something that the media and the public should take a second look at. It is something that will engender engagement and development,” Maku explained.