By Efemena Edherigho
The author of Reversing The Rot In Nigeria, Mr Olusegun O. Oyegbami has criticized the Federal Government for shielding the fraud involved in the operation of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF).
He said that sustaining the PEF policy would amount to encouraging an activity that is fraudulent in every way.
Oyegbami who has spent more than four decades in the Nigeria petroleum downstream sector blamed former president Olusegun Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari, for the the country’s woes in the sectors.
His words: “The Petroleum Equalisation Fund, PEF, was put in place either late 1975 or early 1976, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo was the head of state and President Buhari was the Petroleum Minister, and the intention might have been honest to let everybody have equal access to the petroleum product but equal access should not have been the mantra we should follow but equitable access. That is to say if you are in a particular place where you are close to the petrol, then you can buy it slightly cheaper but it should be available to everybody in that location at same price.”
Oyegbami said further that the whole idea in economics is that the Nigerian governments operate on a comparative advantage and localization of citizens’ advantage. “When you are in a place like Warri or Port Harcourt and when we are talking about importation, Lagos where the petrol lands should necessarily be cheaper than other places where they come to pick that petrol but where government is now paying to transport petrol to far places that is where the fraud comes into it, which makes us to be running a non-economic platform; it is very wrong. Until we change this, Nigeria can never make any progress. “Because it looks like the government is favouring those people transporting the petrol to their places at government expense.
This should not happen and this is what has been happening for more than 40 to 42 years and until we change that we cannot get it right as a country. I am very convinced about this, you run an economy on an economic template and not as a social platform.”
On the issue of fuel, Oyegbami said the government had never subsidized fuel for its citizens for one day: “The price at which petrol has been coming in has always been the economic price and up until the PEF scam came the money that was being collected started to be more than what had been voted for it in the budget for fixing the price.
“It is like when you increase the price from N1 to N1.50k. May be they used to allocate 5k out of every N1 for transportation but if it rose to N1.50k they would then add another 5k to transportation cost so that they would have more money to pay for transportation and 10k would then be used for transportation. “So, they have not subsidized the price of petrol as at that time, all they have subsidized is transportation of the product to distant locations. So, when the price began to skyrocket to N100 they decided that because we are bringing it in at N80 we are going to be giving you additional money, but all the extras are being added to cost of transportation.
Consequently, the cost of transportation is the bridging element in the price build up that is what always goes up steadily. I am telling you that out of N145, which is the cost of petrol today, N6.20K is still allocated for transportation.
“Why? It means that anybody using fuel down south is still paying N6.20k more than he should have paid. This is now gathered together to transport petrol to other parts of the country, especially the North.
“It is really an economic matter that the south should not continuously be paying for transporting fuel to the North, because come to think of it whatever is coming from the North always has its own element of transportation that the South pays for. We have never eaten beef, cow and yam at the same price as the north.
“It is purely an economic matter, it is when looking at it from political angle that you will say that this man is trying to incite one tribe against the other, No, it’s purely economics. These are elements of deception that we have been having in this country. Sometime in the Second Republic some people were arrested for “smuggling” beans from Bida to Oyo. That is funny.
“Nigeria government should let Nigerians trade fairly among themselves.
If we are going to trade in petrol take the petrol at the available price at the depots, add your own transport cost and sell it there. We will have normalcy in this economy within a year or two but now we still have deception and manipulation going on even right now because anybody who is buying petrol in Lagos is still paying N6.20k for carrying it to the north. That is wrong. That should stop. “It is when this manipulation stops that we will know this government is ready to fight corruption, because the same Buhari started the PEF far back then and he’s still protecting it till today.
Until we stop that before we know he is actually dealing with corruption honestly and he’s treating all Nigerians fairly across board. But for now that is not happening.”
Oyegbami said he was inspired to write the book by the death of his mother, which showed him that life is very transient, almost like the departure of a spaceship into the into the horizon.
“You feel lost, and marooned leading to a compulsion and resolve to improve things in your society because the inevitability of my own imminent departure is more palpable,” he said.
This, he further explained, spurred him to write the book, Reversing The Rot In Nigeria”, which is a critical exposé on the nation’s cul-de-sac. “It will be like running around like headless chicken if we don’t do the honest, sensible, equitable and right things for the of our society. The two things that we are deliberately doing wrong are PEF fraudulent manipulations and multiple exchange rates; both make no national sense unless we wish to continue deceiving ourselves.
“The Central Bank governor cannot tell me that he doesn’t know that exchange rate is an invitation to fraud and impunity. Nigeria currently has about a dozen rates! Is this not fraud incorporated?” he rhetorically asked.