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President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said he was disappointed at the way Nigeria’s oil industry had been operated since he left office as a former petroleum minister and as a military Head of State in 1985.
Buhari said those who led the country since then had allowed the nation’s refineries to collapse in order to give their cronies the latitude to steal by importing refined petroleum products.
According to a statement by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari spoke during a meeting he had with a delegation of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Buhari blamed the past administrations for the current situation in which Nigeria is forced to spend billions of naira annually on subsidies for petroleum products.
He said the increase in petroleum subsidy payments over the years was due to the deliberate neglect of the nation’s refineries as well as oil pipelines and other infrastructure in the oil sector in order to allow the importation of petroleum products and corruption to thrive.
He said he was convinced that there would not have been any need for the huge subsidies currently being paid to importers if the development of the country’s domestic refining capacity and petroleum products distribution network had kept pace with national demand.
“They (past administrations) allowed the infrastructure to collapse so that their cronies can steal by bringing in refined products from overseas,” Shehu quoted the President as saying.
He therefore urged the chairman and members of the RMAFC, who availed him of their view on petroleum subsidy payments, to come up with more humane proposals to rescue ordinary Nigerians from what he described as the “wicked manipulation” of the country’s oil industry by corrupt operators.
The President also warned that severe sanctions would be visited on any individual or organisation that violated his directive on the payment of all national revenues into the Federation Account.
The President said that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Nigerian Ports Authority and other MDAs which previously relied on the laws establishing them to retain all or part of the revenues collected by them, did so illegally and must now comply with the Nigerian Constitution by paying all revenues into the Federation Account.
Buhari was ousted in a 1985 coup led by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who ruled the country as a military president from in 1985, till he was forced to step aside 1993 following the uproar that greeted the annulment of that year’s presidential election, won by the late businessman, Chief Moshood Abiola.
Babangida left an Interim National Government, led by Chief Ernest Shonekan. Few months after Babangida left, the late Gen. Sani Abacha pushed aside Shonekan and ruled from that 1993 till he died on June 8, 1998.
Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, who succeded Abacha handed over to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 to usher in a fresh democratic dispensation in the country. Obasanjo served two terms and handed over to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007. After the death of Yar’Adua on May 5, 2010, his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan took over and led the country till May 29, 2015, when he handed over to Buhari.
Buhari was also said to have chided the RMAFC for approving what he called “excessive remunerations” for some political office holders.
He therefore urged the delegation to seek a proper interpretation of the commission’s powers and address the public outcry against the high payments.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress on Tuesday insisted that the Federal Government must investigate funds that were allegedly stolen during the last days of the Jonathan administration.
The NLC, at its national leadership retreat, which held in Calabar, Cross River State, also warned the new Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Emmanuel Kachikwu, not to think of removing oil subsidy.
The NLC president, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, warned that the fight against corruption by Buhari should not be trivialised.
The NLC boss lamented that the Federal Government had failed to remit N35bn to Pension Funds Administrators for workers in the last 11 years.
He said, “Another issue that we are again compelled to comment on is the ongoing campaign of President Buhari against corruption. It is of course no longer news that corruption has eaten so deep into our body polity.
“We now learnt that in the twilight of the last administration, the nation’s revenues were indiscriminately transferred to individual accounts. For us in the Congress, these funds must be recovered by all means. If we need to employ the services of forensic auditors to uncover the various amounts stashed away in foreign and domestic banks, so be it.”
He said investigations into the looting of the national treasury should not be unduly made a controversial matter.