Niger Delta: Kachikwu Restates FG’s Commitment To Dialogue

KachikwuThe Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu, has commended the decision by the federal government to opt for dialogue in ending the Niger Delta violence.

Dr. Kachikwu made this remark during a visit to the Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, in the company of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and coordinator of the Amnesty Programme, Major General Paul Boroh (Rtd).

The Minister told journalists after a closed-door meeting with the Governor that he was in Bayelsa State to listen, and learn from major players and find a lasting solution to the issues surrounding pipeline vandalism.

The meeting which was held in government house Yenagoa, is said to be the beginning of a long process that will lay the foundation for a major peace initiative in the Niger Delta.

Major General Boroh revealed that the dialogue process with militants and other stakeholders have begun producing desirable results.

Governor Dickson while commending the President on his stance for dialogue advised that the process of peace building and conflict resolution should not be politicized.

Regarding the allocation of oil wells, the Minister revealed that this will be attended to in the last quarter of the year.

“The President has not focused on the allocation of oil blocs because we think there are more fundamental issues to deal with. We first have to stabilize the sector (and) we are doing a lot of work on that.

“Over the next couple of months, I think more towards the last quarter of this year, then we will focus on looking at bloc opportunities and at that time we will be able to address what we need to do in terms of that resource.

“I hear loud and clear the call within the Niger Delta community that there is a very urgent need in those allocations to ensure that opportunities get either to state governments or to citizens in the areas where oil is being produced.

“I’m sure that is an area that the President is listening to very carefully and we are going to be working with that,” Dr. Kachikwu said.

Niger Delta Crisis Is Offshoot Of National Planlessness

Zakka Bala on Niger delta crisisA petroleum engineer, Mr Zakka Bala, says the crisis confronting Nigeria in the Niger Delta region is an offshoot of national planlessness.

He blamed the leaders of the nation for not making adequate plan that would cater for the nation’s future, stressing that the challenges posed to the nation’s economy by the Niger Delta Avengers attacks on oil facilities could not have surfaced if it was tackled long ago.

“Think And Plan Generationally”

Mr Bala gave his opinion on Tuesday on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily.

“We are talking about what ordinarily should have been done before.

“Everything can be summarised under ‘planlessness’, tragedy and probably calamities on the part of Nigeria.

“You can describe what we are experiencing as unfortunate sides, but the tragedy are not limited to the Niger Delta.

“If you have a plan, you can neglect some items and still be on course. If you don’t have a plan, the best way to describe the person is to say the person is headless.

“Leaders are supposed to think and plan generationally. If you think and plan generationally, all you need to do is during your time, put in your best. History and posterity will tell,” he stated.

No Banding Document

The petroleum engineer further pointed out that the falling crude oil price was not a hindrance to the Nigerian government from doing what was right to make the diversification of economy visible, with sustained economic growth.

He stressed that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that has not been passed was hindering the flow of activities and inflow of foreign investments in the oil and gas sector.

“It is not the falling prices of crude oil that made us not to pass the PIB and make it a law. It is not the falling prices of crude oil that made Nigeria not to be having fertiliser plants scattered all over. It is not falling prices of crude oil that made us not to dredge River Niger or implement the gas master plant. It is not the falling prices of crude oil that made Nigeria not to respond to joint-venture cash calls.

“If investors want to come into your domain and contract with you, the atmosphere must be conducive.

“When you don’t have a banding document, how do you expect somebody to take your country so serious?” he questioned.

On the role of the government in ensuring that the right persons that are knowledgeable are brought into government, he said those in power in Nigeria’s tended to be sectional, nepotic and political.

“The politics we practice is the politics of exclusion, vengeance and possible extermination.

“If you run an inclusive politics, if you see that I have something to offer, even if I am in the opposition, you will call me on board,” he explained.

On the agitation of the Niger Delta Avengers, he said that equity, proper planning and sustenance of the plan could have brought the needed peace in the Niger Delta region.

He suggested that the Nigerian government should consider an integrative bargain or dialogue, stressing that its leaders must lead with the interest of the nation at heart.Zakka-Bala

FG Has Clear Policy On Nigeria’s Economy – Lai Mohammed

Lai-Mohammed Nigeria's Minister of information on EconomyNigeria’s Minister of information and culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, has dismissed claims that the administration of Muhammadu Buhari had no clear economic policy, expressing optimism that the government’s policies would take the nation out of its current economic difficulties.

The Minister gave the government’s position on Monday on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily.

He said: “The Federal Government has a very clear policy on the economy despite the challenging outlook.

“There is hope and this government is determined to take the country out of its current economic difficulties.

“Although the price of crude oil is recovering slowly, we have learnt our lessons and we are not going to depend solely on crude again, as the mainstay of the economy,” he stressed.

Outlining the government’s policy, Mr Mohammed said the budget that is yet to be passed by the National Assembly would put money back in the economy to stimulate it.

“Our fiscal policy is very clear. We are going to have a budget stimulus which will put money back in the economy.

“Our economic plan is to ensure that more money is put into infrastructure and at the same time that we provide infrastructure that will stimulate diversification into other areas – agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing.

“Anybody who studies our budget will see clearly where the government is going,” the Minister stated.

He said reports that the government had lost control of the economy were false.

“This government is going to steer the country out of its economic depression and that is why our budget concentrated more on capital projects which can reflate the economy.

“We have made provision for massive social intervention. We have put aside 500 billion Naira for artisan, market women, traders and other people to become self-reliant.

“We have made provision for 500,000 unemployed graduates to be trained as teachers.

“It is not true therefore to say that the government does not have a clear plan to fix the economy,” he told Channels Television.

Exporter Of Refined Products

On the current crisis in the petroleum sector and what the government was doing to end the scarcity of petrol, the Minister said that the solution to the fuel scarcity or insufficiency of the product was to make Nigeria completely self-sufficient in refined product.

“One of the policies of this government is to ensure that by 2018, we will not be importing refined products. We hope that by 2018 the country will become a net exporter of refined products.

“This particular fuel scarcity is as a result of union action and has nothing to do with lack of product.

“We believe that we do not need to employ tactics that will become counter-productive to the same people we are trying to protect,” he stated.

On fuel subsidy and implementation, the Minister said that the government had reiterated that with the low price of crude, there was no subsidy in the pump price.

“The government is looking at the template to eliminate corruption so that when the price of crude goes up, we will still be able to sell at the same level.

“The government is not concentrating on the issue of subsidy, rather it is more concerned about ridding the entire industry of corruption and inefficiency and getting a more market-base price.”

On the near total blackout experienced in the nation, the Minister said that the unfortunate situation in the power sector in the last couple of months was a combination of sabotage and vandalism.

“You cannot hold the government fully responsible for some of the actions that have led to the poor power supply.

“Nigerians must come to grips with the fact that the power sector has been privatised. We have sold the right to distribute and market forces will determine a lot of things.

“We must understand that with privatisation of power sector we must take into cognisance that all government does now is to regulate the industry,” he stressed.

Mr Mohammed urged Nigerians to be more critical of saboteurs and vandals, as they of the government.

“It will be better for everybody. If Nigerians will condemn vandals it will help reduce the occurrence,” he added.

Senate Passes 2015 MTEF, Approves $52 Oil Price Benchmark

Ministerial NomineesThe Senate has passed the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Policy Paper (FSP).

The Senate at plenary on Wednesday set the benchmark price of crude at $52 dollars per barrel, against the benchmark price of $65 dollars per barrel set by the Federal Ministry of Finance.

The Senate also set an exchange rate of one hundred and ninety naira to one dollar against one hundred and sixty five naira to the dollar set by the Ministry of Finance.

The Chairman Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Ahmed Markarfi, said the benchmark price of crude was reviewed lower because of the falling price in the international market.

The Senate also approved the reduction of recurrent expenditure from N2.6 trillion to N2.4 trillion and increased capital expenditure from N633 billion to N700 billion.