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Forget Salary Increase, FG Tells Labour

…Says Four Modular Refineries Begin Operations Soon

Tony Ailemen, Abuja

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has ruled out the possibility of any upward adjustments in minimum wage in the country.

Disclosing this Monday while briefing journalist in Abuja, as part of ongoing sensitization campaign on the deregulation of the downstream sector of the nation’s petroleum industry, the minister urged organized labour to forget any increase in salaries.

He said it was not possible for now as the country was rather losing over 60 percent of its earnings, daily.

The briefing which was part of effort by the Federal Government to douse rising tension over increase in the pump price of petrol, which has cause an increase in the prices of goods and services.

Aljahi Mohammed also said government would soon release names of the four companies which successfully bided to operate modular refineries to enable them commence operation.

He assured that when fully operational, Nigeria will be able to refine 650,000 barrels per day of petrol from the refineries while Dangote Refinery will also add 750,000 barrels per day, to make Nigeria to become a net exporter of refined petroleum products.

The minister, who noted that federal government has meticulously followed the process for approving the bid winners, said the ventures will help create over 200,000 jobs as well as stimulate the economy.

Alhaji Mohammed briefed in company of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry and General Manager, Group Public Affairs of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC, Alhaji Garbadeen Mahammad.

He told newsmen that the NNPC was heading for bankruptcy because it became the sole importer of over 90 percent of petroleum products consumed by Nigerians shortly before the recent deregulation.

According to him, NNPC was spending about $550 million and needed about $600m to continue fuel importation, before government’s intervention to save it from bankruptcy.

He disclosed further that the nation could not afford to open letters of credit for the fuel importers because of the dwindling income from crude oil.

“We did not have enough foreign exchange to open letters of credit for people to import fuel”, he said adding that “we must never be pushed to a situation in which we are forced to subsidize fuel prices again in this country, because even if prices of crude oil improve, there are a lot of things we can do with the money to ameliorate the sufferings of our people”.

Alhaji Mohammed, who assured that the new regime will discourage petroleum products hoarding, product diversion and other unwholesome practices in the petroleum industry, also said “we have no choice but to deregulate the price of petrol at the rate we were going”.

He debunked insinuations that what government did was to remove subsidy from petroleum products adding that “there was no subsidy in the first place”.

“One Trillion Naira was paid out as subsidy last year, therefore, in the 2016 budget, government refused to make provision for subsidy”, he said.

On the gains expected from the current deregulation, he announced that government will create jobs for 370,000 technicians and Artisan, while 1.76 million unemployed small business operators were being targeted for loans and grants.

“They will access these loans through cooperatives and loans will be access without collaterals. We are also going to commence the feeding of five million pupils in our public schools daily. This will create more opportunities in the agricultural sector”, Mohammed said.

He disclosed that there was no basis for comparisons with similar action embarked upon in 2012, adding that “income from oil has fallen and there is drastic reduction in the foreign exchange available.

“From October last year, NNPC has been responsible for over 90 percent of fuel consumed, while 445,000 barrels was being exchanged for fuel by NNPC.

“Activities of militants have further reduced government earnings and production volumes reduced to 1.65mbpd as against the projected 2.2mbpd”, he said.

The minister blamed the current travail on the activities of marketers who he said were buying petrol at N77 per liter and selling higher to Nigerian neighbours.

He however assured that the DPR and PPPRA will be empowered to provide a level playing ground for operators of the sector.

The Minister who also spoke on the effect of the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, appealed to the group to lay down their arms and embrace dialogue as the country is losing 1000 megawatts of electricity as well as over 500,000 barrels of crude oil daily.

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