The Federal Government decided to acquire 20 percent stakes in all private refineries in the country to guarantee energy security and stability in the socio-economic system, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, has said.
The Minister gave the clarification on the decision when a group called “Corruption Reporter” visited him in Abuja on Wednesday to present to him an award in recognition of his achievements through his fight against corruption and the pursuit of transparency and accountability in the petroleum industry.
“Acquiring stakes in Dangote Refinery and other private refineries was a strategic decision by the government to get involved in the running of these important assets and not allow them completely in the hands of private individuals, particularly in the absence of strategic security reserves to deploy if the private individual decided, maybe for political reasons, not to supply fuel.
“If the refinery is left in the hands of individuals who support the opposition, they can cause fuel scarcity and trigger a nationwide crisis that can destabilize the country. Government should have stakes in the private refineries to protect the citizens’ interest and ensure national stability at all times,” the Minister said.
Recently, the government announced its decision to acquire a minimum of 20 percent equity if Dangote Refinery and other private refineries to be established in the country.
Describing the decision as justifiable and in the interest of all Nigerians, Sylva said he believed government should acquire even higher stakes in those refineries than the current 20 percent, as it was important to protect its people and ensure stability.
“Today, petroleum products have to do with energy security and national stability. If there is fuel crisis, it can result in national instability in the society,” he said.
Expressing happiness for the recognition and honour with the award, the Minister said coming from young Nigerians he said “the future of the country belongs to” gives him sufficient comfort that all the sacrifice by those in public office were not lost.
Describing corruption as evil that must be exterminated by all means, he restated President Muhammadu Buhari’s quote that corruption would kill the country if we do not kill corruption.
Identifying the layers of corruption in the country, the Minister said when projects are inflated, it makes the projects unaffordable, resulting in projects being stalled, and the country littered with several abandoned projects.
Acknowledging that the present administration came on the back of anti-corruption campaigns, Sylva said since its coming to office the present government has done very well in fighting corruption in all its ramifications
“In the corruption chain, there are three levels the evil manifest – at the level the government is earning funds; at the level the funds are being managed in the award of contracts and at the level of expenditure of the funds.
He said prior to the coming of the present administration, the government had over 90 accounts opened for the deposit of government revenues.
However, since the present administration came into office, the government has successfully controlled corruption at the level where monies meant for the coffers of the government are diverted.
“This administration has been able to control corruption at that level with the introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA), where all payment of government revenues by ministries, departments and agencies are paid in to just one account. Today, no more can government monies be swallowed by any snake.
“Today, if money is earned, it is paid directly into government accounts through the TSA. Those entrusted with the management of the monies, like Permanent Secretaries of ministries and other civil servants who award contracts cannot have access to those monies as was the case in the past,” he said
He urged all Nigerians to see the fight against corruption as a collective responsibility of all, by reporting all corruption cases to the government for action
“We cannot afford to sit back and be trading blame. We must join hands to fight the menace of corruption. Together we can exterminate this evil, to allow the country progress and move forward,” he said.
On Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the Minister announced that the passage into law of the draft law is at the verge of being accomplished with the laying of the draft legislation before the two Chambers of the National Assembly for final consideration;
He said when passed into law, the PIB would help the government in entrenching transparency and accountability in the operations of the nation’s oil and gas industry, to enable the country take its rightful place by checking all corrupt practices.
Earlier, the leader of the group and member, Board of trustee, Adaora Onyechere, noted the role played by the Minister in helping the country navigate the challenges of unstable crude oil price in the international market, the global crisis in the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, the poor state of the country’s refineries, the problems of community hostilities in the Niger Delta region and the quest for energy transition from fossil fuel to gas-renewable energy.
Besides, they listed the Minister’s achievements to include the recent final investment decision by partners in the Nigeria LNG Train 7 project; the commencement of the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline project and the discovery of over 206 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in the country.