Timipre Sylva, the minister of state petroleum resources, said that Nigeria would save over N1 trillion annually due to the removal of fuel subsidy.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday, September 10, 2020, in Abuja, he explained that already, not less than N500 billion would be saved from monies budgeted for the implementation of the 2020 budget.
The Minister noted that with the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil sector, it would be easier to woo investors required to revitalise the nation’s comatose refineries soon.
The minister contended that the sustenance of the fuel subsidy regime was no longer tenable as it had always provided the leeway for rich and unscrupulous Nigerians to steal and enrich themselves at the expense of the masses.
Listing the benefits inherent in the policy, he argued that, “What is deregulation going to do? It is going to free up a lot more money. At least from the very beginning, it will save us up to a trillion and more every year. Already, we have taken up the budgetary provision for subsidy which is about N500 billion in the budget.
“Also, we have taken off the excess forex price that special rate that was given to NNPC which also came at a cost. So, all the money that we used to defend the naira at that time to subsidise the dollar will now be freed up for development. And, I believe that going forward, we will begin to see a lot more development, a lot more money available to the government that will be put into critical infrastructure instead of being burnt in our cars.
“And, let us look at subsidy critically. Who are the beneficiaries of subsidy? When a few years ago you have this subsidy scam all over the place all the monies that were taken by all the subsidy thieves and so on, how many poor people were among those people? Subsidy only provides opportunity for rich and unscrupulous Nigerians to steal and enrich themselves at our expense, at your expense.
“So, deregulation is actually a policy direction that is good for the common Nigerian. It is going to produce a lot of opportunities. Before now, you would asked: Why has the refining sector not developed? It is because no refinery can operate commercially in Nigeria with subsidy.
“If you have a refinery and you refine your product and you are expected to sell it at a subsidised rate, how is the refinery going to make profit and survive? So, nobody wanted to invest in refineries. And that is one of the reasons why our refineries became unsustainable as well because they were refining and selling at a loss. So, every time they came back to government to ask for money.
“Anytime any part got bad they had to come back because they were not operating commercially. So, they don’t have money to replace those parts. That was why we were refining and selling at a loss. With deregulation, it means that refineries can operate commercially.
“And then you can see a lot more investment in that sector and it is going to create a lot of opportunities and jobs for our people. With deregulation, it also means that marketers can import product by themselves and sell at market rates to Nigerians. It is going to create a lot more activities and opportunities.
“So, deregulation is going to really open up. You know what happened in the banking sector with deregulation. We had a few banks but today I cannot count the banks because that sector was deregulated. You see what deregulation did for the airline sector; we had only Nigeria Airways those days.
‘When the sector was deregulated you see that the sector has become a major employer of Nigerians. Deregulation has always been good for sectors. Look at the deregulation of the telecom sector, look at the revolution that it has created for Nigeria and for Nigerians.
“So, why are we shying away from deregulating this sector that is going to provide a lot of opportunities if we do deregulate because we believe that once we deregulate there would be a lot of investment coming into Nigeria to build refineries because at that point it will become commercially viable for them to build refineries because all these issues we are talking about will not be there.
“Even the NNPC can easily find the funds to even fix their refineries because it will then be commercially viable because you are going to operate refineries commercially. Why are we running away from this thing? It is people who are political about it. They want to politicise everything that are saying all kinds of things about the policy direction that has been taken especially at this time.”