The federal government said on Thursday that about 37 companies had already expressed interest in investing in the nation’s refineries following the recent liberalisation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.
It also listed several other benefits accruing from the decision to include the creation of about 200,000 jobs and saving of 400,000 others.
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, stated this at the national secretariat of the All Progressives Congress in Abuja during a meeting between some members of the Federal executive council and the leadership of the party.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, led other ministers to the meeting, which included the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, and that of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.
The National Chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun, led the party leaders, which included the Deputy National Chairman, North, Lawali Shuaibu, and that of the South, Olusegun Oni.
The federal government had last week introduced a new fuel price regime with a litre of the product selling at not more than N145.
Mr. Mohammed lamented that in 2015, the government paid over N1 trillion as subsidy and also sought the approval of the National Assembly for a supplementary budget with subsidy component of N522 billion, noting that such situation was no longer sustainable.
He said apart from guaranteeing the availability of fuel everywhere in the country at all times, the new price regime would also strengthen and make governments at every level much more viable.
According to him, a situation where the crude which the NNPC had been using to supplement its swap system would cease and then there would be more money for the three tiers of government to share.
The minister added, “This prize regime is going to encourage more investment in refineries and in the gas stream sector. You may notice that throughout last week, 37 companies are jostling to come and invest in our refineries just because we have opened up the sector.
“Again this prize regime will lead to the creation of more jobs because when people invest in the downstream sector, they invest in refineries, there will be more jobs and it will also save the existing jobs. We can see a total of 200,000 new jobs being created and saving existing 400,000 jobs.
“On the long run when products are available, people do not have to sleep at the petrol stations, it softens their pains.”
“This is the only government that out of its own conviction, out of its love for the poor people made available half a trillion naira in the budget without any provocation, without anybody protesting, to take care of the common man.”
Mr. Mohammed said the government had set some palliatives to cushion the effect of the harsh price regime on Nigerians.
He stated, “The first is the employment of 500,000 unemployed graduates. The second is the employment of 100,000 non-graduates, artisans. The third is the one meal a day programme targeting 5.5 million all over Nigeria.
“This is the most exciting of all the programmes because even if you are going to give these children one egg a day, it means you will need 5.5 million eggs, in a calendar year of 200 days, it means over one billion eggs, you can imagine what this can do to agriculture.
“Fourthly, we have the enterprise scheme, which is a system of revolving loan. We are targeting one million market women and men, 460,000 artisans and technicians and 200,000 non- professional workers.
“They will be given loans through their cooperatives to start their own businesses. Finally we have N5, 000 conditional advance fund to one million most vulnerable Nigerians at the first phase.
“And we have bursaries and scholarships to all students in Nigeria who are studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
The minister said all the relevant unions in the oil industry were carried along in the decision to liberalise the downstream sector and that they also advised government on how best the fuel impasse could be finally and permanently arrested before government took its position.
He stated that the marketers who complained of their inability to access foreign exchange as their major challenge were told to submit a proposal on the cost of the product if they were to access forex from the parallel market, adding that the new prize regime was informed by their report.
The minister said government had set up a committee to look at the entire prize regime vis-a-vis minimum wage of the organised labour in order to achieve a lasting solution on the issue.
He however said the committee which was yet to be inaugurated would submit its report in six months.
Earlier, Mr. Lawal told the party leaders that in 10 days’ time, the Muhammadu Buhari administration would be one year in office, adding that in those 12 months quite a number of key decisions had been taken.
“One of the major decisions that the government has taken of recent time is the removal or the deregulation of the pricing mechanism of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry,” the SGF said.
“We feel that the leaders of our party and the government need to have a class interaction to present the government side of the issue to you…This is a family discussion and the government side are very well equipped to respond to whatever issues you will want answers to.
“The delegation here was well selected. Education is one of the key pivot policies that this government hinges on. Our education minister is here. Employment is also one of the key policies that this government focuses on, the minister of Labour and Employment is here.”
In his response, Mr. Odigie-Oyegun said the meeting was unique “because we are coming together as a government and as the governing party to exchange ideas (and) to ensure that both party and government are on the same page in a lot of the very critical and important issues that are taking place in our nation today”.
He hinted that at the end of the month, the party would have a policy dialogue which would involve at least five leaders from the thirty-six states of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to seat with the executive branch.
“At every retreat, we will be taking five members from the executive to talk to us about the situation they met on ground, to talk to us about what they are doing now, and to talk to us about the future that they envisage,” he stated.
“What this does is to arm every one of us from the national level and state level so that we can speak authoritatively about what is going on at the national level and go away with the conviction that things are not just happening capriciously.
“With the conviction that we promised change but change is a process, it is not an event, not something that happened the day after the government was sworn-in,” he said.