Details emerged yesterday that the Federal Government suspended the proposed sale of the nation’s four refineries, a move that was fiercely opposed by the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) in order to ensure the stability of the political environment, the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, said.
Maku, who made this known in an interview with reporters in Abuja, said although the Federal Government believed in the economic benefits of selling off the refineries to private investors, a final decision on the sale would be taken after critical stakeholders must have arrived at an agreement on the need for the action.
In apparent reference to the January 1, 2012, massive protests that greeted the removal of subsidy on premium motor spirit (pms) also known as petrol, the minister noted that any instability now could strain the nation’s economy, adding that it was necessary for all critical stakeholders to appreciate the need for the sale of the refineries.
According to Maku, “We have a huge challenge winning citizens to appreciate that the deregulation will be to the advantage of the economy and the welfare of the citizens. In every political system, unless the people are won over, even when your policies are right, you can create a major problem as we saw in January 2012 when we brought up the issue of deregulation.
“The media, the civil society, political organisations and everybody was up in arms against the government. You have to weigh the options. Stability is very crucial to the realisation of national objectives”.
The minister said without stability, a lot of costs would be incurred in trying to win the citizens’ hearts and stabilising economic activities, adding that up until now, government was still having a difficult time earning the trust of Nigerians due to the politicization of the issue of deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.
Maku added, “Every political opponent is busy trying to show that he loves the citizens more than the other party. So, in the course of this, we believe that Nigerians will come to see the losses we are sustaining today by keeping this wrong economic regulation in place”.