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By NBF News
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LAGOS-The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, weekend, in Lagos, said the planned removal of fuel subsidy would enable government plough back the huge annual subsidy on provision of some basic infrastructure as well as facilitate the entry of private investments in refineries, petrochemicals and allied products.

He said: 'As a people, we must learn to open our eyes to current realities and embrace the opportunities that a deregulated downstream sector of the oil industry has on offer for us all.

Removal of subsidy means that government would have more funds to channel into the provision of some identified vital infrastructure and social welfare packages for some vulnerable groups like pregnant women, children as well as unemployed youths. All these are captured in the post-deregulation Social Safety Net scheme.' Ajuonuma stated.

He said special community public work programme with competitive reward package is being designed to help keep youths especially in non urban areas engaged and help them resist the lure of the rural-urban migration.

He also informed that a deregulated downstream sector would naturally encourage more private participation and investments which would translate to job creation and employment opportunities for more Nigerian youths.

'It is common knowledge that about 10 years ago government gave licenses to some private investors to build refineries and one decade after none of them has come on stream.

The reason for this is very simple: No investor would enter a market where government prescribes how much the products should be sold; in fact such a venture is not even bankable.  But under a deregulated and liberalised regime, as we have seen in the telecoms, aviation and even media businesses, private initiatives and ventures help to stimulate the much needed competition and growth,' Ajuonuma argued.

Dr. Ajuonuma said the trend all over the world is that government no longer subsidize consumption but  rather subsidize the production sector in order to boost production in the economy.

He said that deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry would encourage private investors to build more refineries in the country to complement  the four existing government-owned refineries alongside the three planned Greenfield refineries to be built by the NNPC in conjunction with some Chinese investors which are envisaged to come on stream in few years.

'It is our hope that in a few years from now, Nigeria would transform from a mere exporter of crude oil to a major exporter of petroleum products like petrol, kerosene, diesel and even white products like lubricants. We must use the entire oil and gas industry value chain to employ and empower our teeming youths,' he said.

The NNPC spokesman noted that what is different this time around is that under President Goodluck Jonathan we have a government that is determined to ensure that fuel subsidy savings are managed and monitored by a group of eminent Nigerians who would track, measure and monitor the projects and guarantee that contracts for the construction of roads, hospitals and other infrastructure are awarded to companies with track records of performance and service delivery.

He called on the Nigerian Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and all other bodies opposed to the removal of subsidy to give government the benefit of implementing the deregulation programme and monitor how the proceeds would be used for the benefit of the Nigerian people.