Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has promised to strike early deals with oil companies, reverse the massive divestment underway and agree on improved fiscal regimes in a bid to boost oil and gas production and stimulate Africa’s biggest economy.
His key economic target is to make sure Nigeria’s oil and gas sector, the lifeblood of the economy, attains a growth level of 10 percent that will allow the country to double its economic growth in seven years.
“We shall work in a coordinated manner to implement key reforms in the energy sector and collaborate to stem oil theft and vandalization of fuel infrastructure to tap the current high oil prices,” he said on Friday at a dialogue with directors of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and other business leaders in Lagos.
In a wide-ranging presentation, he acknowledged that although the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) had come into force, the country still continues to suffer from a huge capital flight from the oil sector while production levels are falling progressively.
Nigeria’s oil sector has seen many asset sales by international oil companies in recent years.
Million-dollar projects including the 120,000-barrels-per-day Zabazaba-Etan project, 140,000bpd Bosi project, 110,000bpd Uge project and 100,000bpd Nsiko deepwater project, as well as the 1billion barrel Owowo field development await final investment decisions.
The sector is plagued by rampant crude theft and pipeline vandalism, even in the midst of several military units devoted to curbing it and the deployment of technological tools by oil companies to check vandals.
To change the narration, the former governor of Lagos promised close consultation and dialogue with the private sector to attain inclusive growth and shared goals.
He said Nigeria must immediately remove petrol subsidy because it should not be subsidising neighbouring countries, dismantle foreign restrictions that crimp the private sector, expand smuggling, impoverish Nigerians and raise costs for businesses while giving a bad image to the country.
Tinubu also addressed Nigeria’s spiraling inflation but did not agree with the present policy of the monetary authorities that seek to limit credit, saying his approach will be to expand access to capital and not suppress aggregate demand by expanding production and fixing domestic imbalances.
According to him, if elected, his government will tackle the crisis in the power sector by creating an enabling environment to attract fresh capital, decentralise transmission and deliver a cost-effective tariff for the power sector.
Tinubu was in his element, full of humor and finding time to crack jokes at the NESG session, which also had in attendance Governors Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi) as well as former Governors Adams Oshiomhole; Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Gbenga Oyetola (Osun); and Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), who is also minister of works and housing; Hadiza Bala Usman, former managing director of Nigerian Ports Authority; Dele Alake; Abike Dabiri; and Wale Edun.
When he finished his initial presentation, in which he elaborated on his accomplishments as governor of Lagos, he asked the audience to clap for him.
He also caused a stir when he said: “What do we produce to sell to the rest of the world? We even eat the skin of our cattle. It is a sign of poverty.”
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Tinubu, who is campaigning on the back of what he achieved as governor of Lagos State in the early 2000s, is also a businessman with investments in oil and gas, media and real estate, among others.
The APC flag-bearer, Labour Party’s Peter Obi and the Peoples Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar are the three main contenders jostling for a fiercely contested presidential election in February, and whoever wins is expected to inherit a lot of economic problems.
Obi’s economic policy is centred around frugality and prudence, while Atiku’s ideology is more of liberal capitalism or placing the private sector at the heart of economic plans.
Experts say whoever emerges the winner has his work cut out.