As the argument for and against deregulation rages on, government said last week that it has spent a whopping N1.6 trillion to subsidise fuel importation into the country in the last three years
This was disclosed by the Deputy Chairman and Minister of National Planning Commission (NPC), Dr. Shamsudeen Usman in Abuja at the end of the 15th Nigeria Economic Summit.
According to him, government could no longer allow few individuals who have formed themselves into a cartel and who have been taken advantage of government’s fuel subsidy policy.
“The message is that the average Nigerian is not benefiting from the system as it is now. First of all, you go to many parts of Nigeria and there are only a few places where people get these products at the controlled price.
“Secondly, in the last two years about 1. 6 trillion has been spent on fuel subsidy with an average of about N700 billion. That is money that is higher than the total amount spent on the capital budget in each of those years.
“Which means, this is money that should be going into road development and railways, building of hospitals and schools, rehabilitation of the inland water ways and the ports. And that is what will impact on the quality of life of Nigerians”, he stressed.
He however admitted that there will be hike in the pump price of petroleum products on account of deregulation, but assured that government was also working on palliatives, but quickly assured that competition would drive down the prices in the long run.
“They may rise in the initial period, but competition, you create a situation where new refineries are built, especially by the private sector and like the telecom sector, the prices will come down.”
According to him, government has already completed 50 percent of the rehabilitation work on 67 federal roads across the country and railways will start working by the end of 2010.
“The palliatives are already being implemented. I said it earlier, that 67 federal roads are being rehabilitated and more than 50 per cent of the work is already ongoing. It has never happened before to have as many federal roads all being rehabilitated at the same time.
“You will have the inland waters so that you can travel from Warri to Baro, may be in two to three years. Especially, it is not so much human traffic as freight traffic, which is what is destroying the roads currently.
“If you get the heavy freights off the roads then the roads will last longer. It’s more economical and more efficient because nobody will use the roads if we have the railways. It is safer and cheaper, ‘’ he said.