The argument for a complete removal of fuel subsidy re-emerged yesterday as President Goodluck Jonathan said it was the only way to attract investors to the petroleum sector.
Jonathan, who stated this while receiving the report of this year’s graduating participants of the Senior Executive Course 34 of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Plateau State, said such a decision would also bring an end to the importation of petroleum products.
He said although the total removal of fuel subsidy would initially make things hard for Nigerians, but eventually Nigerians would be happier if they persevere.
The president asked rhetorically: “Why is it that people are not building refineries in Nigeria despite the fact that it is a big business? It is because of the policy of subsidy, and that is why we want to get out of it.” He explained that the transformation of Nigeria should witness should be likened to a painful surgery that nonetheless must be carried out for it to be healthy.
“To change a nation is like surgery. If you have a young daughter of five years who has a boil at a very strategic part of the face, you either as a parent leave that boil because the young girl will cry or you take the girl to the surgeon. So you have the option of just robbing mentholatum on the face until the boil will bust and disfigure her face or you take that child to the surgeon. On the sighting of a scalpel of the surgeon alone, the child will start crying.
“But if she bears the pains and do the incision and treat it, after some days or weeks, the child will grow up to be a beautiful lady. There are certain decisions that government must take that may be painful at the beginning and people must be properly informed so that they will be ready to bear the pains,” he said.
Maintaining that the country would record progress within a decade once the right policies were implemented, Jonathan said: “I believe that you do not need a lifetime to change a nation. Under 10 years, Nigeria can change and people will not even believe that this is Nigeria again. Immediately you come up with strong policies in key sectors of the economy and keep it for 10 years, the change will be astronomical.”
On the NIPSS graduates’ report that was a comparative study of Nigeria and Canadian refineries, he observed that the latter has 16 functional refineries, while Nigeria has four whose production quota was just 30 per cent of their installed capacity. He attributed the success story of Canadian refineries to the fact that they are privately-owned.
In their presentation, the graduating participants called on the president to redouble its efforts in curbing the proliferation of arms and insecurity in the country. Titled: “Resource Diversification for Sustainable Economic Development in Nigeria,” the report noted that “one of the greatest threats to security is unemployment.”
The report also commented on the state of the nation’s airports, saying: “The nation’s aviation sector is not robust enough for diversification.” A similar verdict was passed on the maritime sector, while the media got knocks for what the participants described as their subjective reporting.