Despite the deluge of petrol pumped into Lagos, the biting scarcity remains – no thanks to unscrupulous dealers who truck supplies out of the country.
Minister of State (Petroleum) Dr. Ibe Kachikwu told a town hall meeting in Lagos that 30 per cent of the fuel supplied is diverted to neighbouring countries.
Listening were Nigerians from all walks of life and some ministers. Kachikwu said: “I have had countless sleepless nights. I work round the clock to solve this problem because whatever touches you touches me. Over 30 per cent of fuel is diverted to Chad and Cameroon. But I continue to oversupply and you see some people making money out of the agony of Nigerians.”
Apologising for the lingering fuel crisis, the minister said: “What we met on the ground when we came was complete lack of transparency but we have worked to put everything in order. The loss of N300 billion by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been reduced to N3billion, subsidy payment has been reduced to near zero. We are focusing on business, not bleeding the government.”
He went on: “We are working on ideas to solve the problems. I worry about a lot of things, about the trucks. What we want to do now is to make sure that we select only truckers who can install trackers on their trucks; we are looking at intelligent solutions. Don’t judge us by the supply of fuel; we are working hard at all the issues and believe me I have energy to throw at everything.”
The minister explained that the NNPC loads 1,400 tankers for Lagos alone.
The Federal Government said it was working hard to address the problems facing the country. “We hear you, we care about you,” the officials said.
Ministers at the Town Hall meeting organised by the Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, are: Alhaji Lai Mohammed (Information, Culture and Tourism), Babatunde Raji Fashola (Power, Works and Housing), Kachukwu (Petroleum), Geoffrey Onyema (Foreign Affairs), Okechukwu Enelamah (Industry, Trade and Investment) and Rotimi Amaechi (Transport).
Host Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, represented by his deputy Mrs. Idiat Adebule, said the town hall meeting was a way to get a feedback from the people. He said the government has made great strides in the fight against corruption and in the economy. However, some of the changes have not been seen because President Muhamadu Buhari has been painstaking in addressing the many problems facing the country.
“ This is not the time to despair, but to keep faith with this administration. We need to focus because the gains of the ongoing efforts will start to materialise,” Ambode said.
Mohammed highlighted the achievements of the administration on the three broad areas of tackling corruption, Security of lives and property and the economy. The minister said in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency, the President sought the support of neighbouring countries.
He said: “That explains why the President’s first trips outside the country, after he was sworn in, was to rally the support of our neighbours – Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger – for the efforts to tackle the insurgency.
“The President also rallied the support of the international community, starting with the G7, and then the US, France and the UN. Today, the President’s efforts have paid off. Boko Haram has been defeated. This is a rare feat. The insurgents have lost their capacity to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks for which they became infamous.
“ This did not happen by accident. It was the result of purposeful, credible and courageous leadership being provided by President Muhammadu Buhari, who started off by ordering the relocation of the command and control centre of the battle against insurgency from Abuja to Maiduguri, rallied regional and global support for Nigeria’s efforts and boosted the morale and fighting capability of armed troops.”
On tackling corruption, the Minister said the government was winning the war against treasury looters. “ I can tell you today that we have also squarely taken on corruption, and we are winning. The situation is serious and no government can fight the battle alone. That explains why we have launched a nationwide sensitisation campaign to make Nigerians to buy into the anti-graft war. In this campaign, our focus is not to vilify anyone, but to put a face to corruption instead of talking about it in the abstract.”
He said between 2006 and 2013, 55 people allegedly stole N1.34 trillion, which is more than a quarter of the 2015 national budget and represents the total earnings of four African nations.
On the economy, Mohammed said while Nigeria has lost a sizeable portion of her earnings due to the crash in oil revenue, the administration has decided to turn the disaster into a blessing by “working assiduously to diversify our economy away from oil. Agriculture, solid minerals, culture and tourism are some of the sectors we are currently working to rejuvenate so they can earn huge revenues for the country and create jobs.”
He said the administration also plug all the financial loopholes through the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which now has over two trillion naira in savings. Also, about 36,000 ghost workers have been discovered and weeded out, saving the government millions of naira.
On the 2016 budget, he said it was the first budget with a capital expenditure being increased to 30 per cent. He said there are six social interventions that will touch the lives of the citizens, including: 500,000 graduates to be employed and trained as teachers; 370,000 non-graduates (artisans, technicians) to be trained and employed; 1 million people (farmers, market women, etc) to be granted loans to set up small businesses; Conditional Cash Transfer to the most vulnerable people; School Feeding targeting 4.5 million school children; Bursaries/scholarships for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students.
Defending the President’s numerous travels, Onyema, said the trips were carefully selected to align with the governments three cardinal priorities of economy, tackling corruption and security of lives and properties.
“The trips of Mr. President are not selected on a random basis; they were carefully selected and designed to fit into the priorities of government. On security, the trips initially were to the neighbouring countries. At that time, Boko Haram was a threat to the existence of this country, Mr. President targeted his initial trips to the neighbouring countries because the Boko Haram were using these countries as base to attack Nigeria.
“The first foreign policy thrust was in that direction and the results are clear for all to see. The personae of our President also inspires confidence in some of the powerful countries in the world who have refused to help us or sell arms to us because they didn’t have any confidence in the government of the day.”
Onyema called on Nigerians to exercise patience and show understanding with the government because the President is “laying the foundation for a lasting sustainable development for the country”. He said President Buhari put corruption on international agenda.
He said the President’s many trips, especially the last to China, would begin to yield positive results for the economy and Nigerians. He said Nigeria is diversifying from doing business with a single block of countries and looking towards the East and globally.
“Most governments will take the easy way out, go to the ( International Monetary Fund, IMF) take some loans and devalue your currency. These are quick fixes, which is like putting back the evil days. But if you are going to industrialise, we will have to put in place a sustainable development mechanism. We have to build solid blocks, lay the foundations for us to take off. It takes time and difficult because you might not be putting resources in the places people expect you to do.”
Fashola said the fact that almost every good is made in China is a pointer that Nigeria should be doing business with the country and that informed the change in the direction the country is taking on trade.
Fashola said the Federal Government was feeling the pains Nigerians are going through and the ministers are working as a team to solve the problems.
“The reason why we are here is to tell you that we hear you loud and clear; we are connected and our feet are on the ground. We are working backstage, we are here because we care and believe this job can be done, we are here because we know the right to know is very important in a democracy,” Fashola said.
He assured Nigerians that results of planning will soon materialise. “I acknowledge we are in a result-driven business and today result can be measured by how many roads have done, how much power do you have, how much housing can you get; now those results have not yet been delivered but I assure you they will be delivered. But some results are becoming evident to us in government and they may seem intangible to those outside the government; it clearly understands why we are where we are.”
He said the power problem is generation, describing it as “not just enough”.
“I am looking at some of the things that have been done well and some of the things that could have been done better, but I will summarise the power issue in one word: there is not enough power, 5,000 megawatts for 170 million people is not just enough,” he said.
On roads, the minister said the Federal Government will require about N2trillion to complete no fewer than 226 road projects inherited from the previous administration.
He said the total amount allocated to all the sectors under his ministry in the 2016 budget is less than N500billion, adding that the government did not have enough resources to complete all the projects at present.
“The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing proposed N423billion at the Federal Executive Council and the information reaching us is that we are not going to get all that . Ongoing road projects alone awarded by the government before we came— about 266 roads awarded in the various states— the liability to complete them is about N2trillion.
“So, when you look at N400billion,you know that it is not enough, but when you compare what this administration is going to do with the N400billion, with what the last administration did, you will know it is much progress.
“What the last administration did was to budget N18billion for all the roads in the country, knowing the liability was in excess of N2trilion. For the three sectors, that is Works, Housing and Power, the total budget by the last administration was N24.5billion.So ,this administration decided to move away from that and that is why we have a figure that may not be enough, but substantial for the sectors,” he said.
The minister said the government would design a housing model for the country that would consider the cultural suitability of every Nigerian and acceptable to them.