The Senior Special Adviser to Governor on Petroleum Matters, Sir Victor Ekefia (KJW) has said his experience in the oil and gas sector has aided him in stopping the incessant fuel scarcity in the state. He stated this in his office while fielding questions from newsmen recently.
The SSA said he has been in many oil and gas related associations in Nigeria, playing various roles prior to his appointment.
“The last one before my appointment was the National Coordinator of Anti-pipeline Vandalism in Nigeria working with Presidents of NUPENG, IPMAN, PTDs and PDOs. The relationships I established with these Associations has been very pivotal and helpful in tackling issues of artificial and conventional scarcities. I inherited some challenging tasks just at the time I was appointed and for the past eight months that I have been on this saddle, my office has been able to handle about four serious cases some involving Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps”, Etefia said.
He said his personal experiences in the oil and gas business over two decades has contributed immensely in ensuring the sustainability of product availability in the State. He announced to citizens and residents of the State that at the moment, petrol pump price is between N123.5 – N125 per litre and anything more than this is unacceptable, adding that Akwa Ibomites must also enjoy what other Nigerians are enjoying.
He appreciated Independent Marketers operating in the State for their cooperation and for always respecting directives from his office as regards petroleum pump price adjustments which he said has been fluctuating of late. He admitted that it has been a very difficult time for these marketers, but pleaded for their continued cooperation encouraging them that this time will soon pass.
When asked why the prices of DPK (kerosene) and AGO (diesel) are still on the high side and why the State is not considering building a refinery, the SSA attributed the problem to the inability of the Government to set up a functional refinery. He hinted newsmen that there is no refinery in the Country that is working at optimal level, with most of the existing ones being obsolete.
“I can tell you for sure that as at the time most of the existing refineries were set up, the population of Nigeria was less than 70 million and with the current population of over 200 million, its absolute difficult for these facilities to meet our demand”, he said.
On the issue of the State building a refinery, the SSA opined that it is not going to be profitable to do so because of the extant laws governing the system. He cited an instance where the State is currently generating electricity, but not allowed to distribute same.
“The same scenario will play out if we set up a refinery. Again let me ask you, if the cost of refining a liter of oil is say N20, and after, the Federal Government through NNPC and PPMC ask you to sell at N10, please are you making profit? Absolute Not.
He also weighed in on the protest staged by Oro youths over their (Oro Nation’s) exclusion from the list of oil-bearing communities in the state.
“I learnt that the Youths of Oro nation recently staged a protest for non-inclusion of Oro communities as oil producing communities by the Federal Government, calling on the State Government to intervene. Although I do not have the authority to speak on this, but what they are asking for is outside the purview of the State”, Etefia said.
He pointed out that there are lot of technicalities involved in what they are asking for adding that it is the exclusive duty of the Federal Government to do this. He hinted that despite the many waterways owned by Cross River State, the State is not part of the 13% oil derivation instituted by the Federal Government.
The Ikono-born oil and gas guru also talked about the issue of deregulation of the downstream sector in Nigeria.
“Nigerians will continue to be victims of history because most time, we refuse to be detailed and not spend time to research on the etymology of sensitive things we yearn for. The issue of deregulation of the downstream sector is not a new thing in Nigeria. General Ibrahim Babangida (GCFR) in 1986 was the very first Nigerian President to think of the concept of deregulation, having noticed that Nigerians were over-relying on oil. He immediately brought up Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that birthed deregulation of the downstream, and also measured external debt management strategies, removal of subsidy on petroleum product, privatization and commercialization, trade liberalization and interest rate deregulation, but many people castigated his effort calling it a bad policy.
“Yes, I agree it was a difficult time for everyone then to a point that almost all the public commentators adjudged SAP as one of the worst things that happened to Nigerian Economy. I recall, Anyanwu – a Senior Financial Analyst with IMF in one of his articles on inflation submitted that inflation orchestrated by SAP was destroying every fabric of the Nigerian society. This is just to tell you how it was. But today I can say with boldness and with a high degree of certainty that what Nigeria is surviving with is as a result of that policy.
“It is on record that within the first couple of years, SAP policy returned Nigeria’s economy to the right track with many sectors benefitting. Now it is easy to talk about many other sectors other than oil and gas and people no longer over-rely on government in terms of employment courtesy of SAP. I can recall President IBB in one of his speeches stated that the government spent a whopping sum of 1.4 Billion USD on subsidy yearly and that no responsible government would continue to do this. It is on record that the Nigerian Government recovered over 900 million naira on her first outing on this, a positive sign and result that made IBB to divert into other programs.
He decried the failure of successive governments for not allowing deregulation to subsist and faulted the present government for not being serious in delivering their electioneering promises to Nigerians.
“Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari kicked against deregulation and subsidy removal and even promised to make petrol available to Nigerians at N40 per litre if voted into power in 2015. But when he was voted in, he took the petrol price from N97 per litre to N145 and when we had thought that it was the beginning of deregulation, they took the price again to N125 explaining through the Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari that they want to take advantage of the global crises in the oil and gas sector where crude is loaded in the vessels and no one will ask what it is. For me, this is a wrong policy.
“Let me tell you, before you dabble into deregulating the downstream sector, people must see your policy framework, your plans to mitigate the effects and reality. We have come of age and point where we should look at issues of this Country as a people and take a common stand instead of allowing few people to continue to impoverish us”, he added.
He said though he is a strong advocate of deregulation, such must be made such that people would know the approach whether fire brand or incremental. He submitted that adopting a firebrand approach might be disastrous, queuing from the experience of the past, but incremental approach involving a phase by phase increment is the best because it will have a minimal effect on the masses.
When asked to assess the government of Deacon Udom Emmanuel for the past five years as his aide on Petroleum Matters, Mr. Etefia said:
“I wouldn’t want to attempt that, but at a personal level and being a political scientist, I can say a thing or two about this government. The past five years under the leadership of Udom Emmanuel has witnessed a very serious revolution in almost all sectors of the State and for me, I can safely say on a personal basis without any fear of contradiction, that there is a paradigm shift in how governance should be approached. He has been able to take the State to a level we cannot only speculate but also predict and balance the past with present at the same time forecast with a high degree of certainty the future of the State. Governor Udom is focused, prepared and has the capacity for leadership.
“Today, government is not at the centre of running industries in the State, which was the greatest casualty of previous governments. Instead the Governor now provides an enabling environment (most fundamental of all is security) where investors come in and do business, then pay tax as obtained in developed climes. All the 16 companies operating in the State is operating on this basis. He has justified his campaign promises and why he is called ‘Mr Industrialization’.
“I am one person that does not assess governance based on conventions like roads because this is a statutory responsibility of government, instead I celebrate innovations. For instance, while players in the aviation sector are counting their losses in this period of pandemic, Ibom Air added another new aircraft to her fleet. Most States in Nigeria had to procure food for distribution as palliative, all the food shared in the State came from within. He has completely revolutionized the agricultural sector of the State economy.
“The Intelligent building also called 21-storey smart building is the brain child of Gov. Udom Emmanuel and when completed, all IOCs will be persuaded to have their corporate headquarters in the State and we are sure that more than 1000 qualified Akwa Ibom people will be taken out of the labour market. There is much to celebrate about him.
“I thank His Excellency Deacon Udom Emmanuel for the opportunity granted me to serve the people of the State on petroleum matters. I will keep doing my bid to justify the huge confidence reposed on my credibility”, the governor’s aide said.