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Three Things President Buhari Needs To Do (2)

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Rev. Patrick Esamah, Secretary, Edo state Local Government service Commission, Benin, has become, for policy watchers, an institution of sorts in Policy Analysis, Commentaries, strategies and by his experience in local government administration wield the magic wand that, by all intents and purposes, could unlock the dungeon of solutions where the myriad of problems that beset Nigeria is dumped.
With the inauguration of the President Muhammadu Buhari and Prof Yemi Osinbajo –led federal Government  a few days ago Rev Esamah says he wishes that the new administration would identify the key areas of need which would accelerate the wheel of development and hit the ground running.
He threw some lifelines here, and stated emphatically that, “There’s no privatization of the power sector. What we are haggling with as a nation is the privatisation of  monopoly”, when he spoke with our principal features writer, Ijeoma Umeh on the debacles in the power sector, and how the Distribution companies (Discos) have “badly shortchanged Nigerians”.
He also noted that the subsidy idea is a smokescreen and a scam and that he expects the Buhari-led Federal Government to start asking if subsidy is free from the encumbrances that have so far characterised  the process and to see the lifting rights according to which oil distribution operates. “I also expect   the Federal Government to ask: how did you arrive at the quantity  of petroleum products consumed by Nigerians?”
His shared thoughts would, it is hoped, hasten the process of change as it is desired by all right –thinking Nigerians. Enjoy! The administration of General Muhammadu Buhari is undoubtedly very popular, and he is coming into office at a time when Nigerians need to be rescued from the evil grip of the masquerades in the petroleum subsector. This is also a time when Nigerians are groaning under the iron hell of unreliable power supply which they are made to pay for but are not enjoying the services.  Added to these is the problem of insecurity which is negatively affecting the socio-economic development of the country.
Petroleum Sector
The inability  of the refineries to operate efficiently and optimally after all these years when so much have been sunk into its maintenance and repairs is baffling to serious minded people. It is of even more serious concern that Nigeria being a major producer of crude oil in the world still relies on the importation of petroleum products for which over N762 billion naira is acknowledged by the outgoing Minister of Finance, Dr. Okonjo Iweala to have been paid to marketers between 2014 and 2015. The Nigerian predicament can he likened to a producer of cassava who knows that he would need to keep a portion of his own product for consumption but foolishly chose to sell everything he produced, only to turn round to the same market to purchase what he requires at a higher cost. This, to me, is a great absurdity which General Buhari would need to address in his 100 days in office. There are countries that are not blessed with crude oil and they do not have pipelines that are placed under the surveillance of those who have capacity to tamper with what they arc supposed to watch over, even when they are paid billions of naira for a job they arc not trained to carry out. These countries are known to have medium and small scale refineries that produce enough to meet the needs of their people.
Nigeria being a vast country with a network of pipelines spanning the length and breadth of the nation, we do not have the capacity to stop the nefarious activities of oil pipe vandals either in the short, middle or in the long run.
The solution to this problem is to look outside our shores for medium and small scale refineries that private concerns could be encouraged to invest in by liberalizing the process of’ establishing them in Nigeria, the same way that investors in the telecommunication industry were encouraged to invest in the largest economy in Africa.    When medium and small scale refineries are established across the States in the country, all they need do is to buy crude oil, refine them and sell to Nigerians without any need to pay subsidies. Also, the so-called illegal refineries in the creeks that are often targeted for destruction should be registered to enable the General know how they source their crude oil then refine for sale. They should he allowed to operate in the open.
Petroleum Subsidies
Concerning subsidies that the independent marketers claim that they are entitled to for importing petroleum products, it would be important for General Buhari to find out from them how they arrived at what quantity of petroleum products is consumed by Nigerians on daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. As a guide, it is known that every petrol station registered with DPR and NNPC are entitled to lifting rights on a monthly basis. If these lifting rights are what the Independent Marketers compute to arrive at the figures they claim to have imported and are therefore entitled to payment of’ subsidies, the General would need to know that these lifting rights are smoke screens that need to be investigated. If these lifting rights were honoured and their stock are given to them as when due, Nigeria would not be experiencing untold and unnecessary hardships in the hands of marketers. The truth is that most petrol stations are starved by NNPC yet what they are entitled to receive by virtue of’ their lifting rights which are denied them are computed for purposes of subsidies.
The General would need to know what happens between when a tanker is loaded at the NNI depot and when it gets to the respective stations. Are they free from official encumbrances? He may also need to find out and see the connection between the rot in the petroleum industry where staff of NNPC and DPR have petrol stations and the inability to provide fuel to those who were granted lifting rights.
Removal of Fuel Subsidies
It is of note that prior to this time; Nigerians have been against the removal of oil subsidies. However, with the huge amount being paid to marketers for what Nigerians could not have been consuming, the general opinion must have changed and many would now favour its removal. This is a decision which General Buhari needs to be very careful and tactical in taking, he has to do so. If petroleum subsidies are removed, the marketers would predictably form themselves into a cartel that would hold Nigerians in the jugular by introducing a price regime that could present the President elect in bad light. What then should be done if he opts to remove petroleum subsidy? The way to go about it is for the General to set up a parallel marketing Agency to also import petroleum products to check mate the likely excesses of the marketers.
Security
The problem of insecurity should not be seen by Nigerians as the sole responsibility of the military and other security Agencies but a duty that must be complemented by every Nigerian and, in particular, the third tier of government which is closest to the rural populace. The military cannot be expected to face all the troubled areas at the same time due to limited resources and problem of logistics. Also of consideration are the nature of the terrain and the vastness of the areas they would need to cover in addition to the other duties of securing and protecting facilities that could become ready target of attack by insurgents.
For adequate security coverage that would give the military and other security Agencies the leverage to concentrate on more pressing security challenges as insurgency, the new administration of General Buhari should as a matter of deliberate policy encourage the 774 Local Governments in the country to place 40 ex-service men on contract appointment to provide the first line of defence against any security threat and serve as some form of deterrent rather than allow the insurgents stroll with ease to invade communities in the rural areas without any form of resistance before the military is called in.
The duties and scope of operations of the ex-service men would be defined and each of them would be placed on an initial contract of 2 years which shall be renewable subject to performance. This outfit would be retrained, kitted and provided with the wherewithal to complement security operations across the country.

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