Former Kwara State Governor and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Senator Bukola Saraki, has declared that the $78 oil benchmark being proposed by the Federal Government for 2015 budget is unrealistic.
Saraki, who also demanded a full disclosure of the state of the nation’s economy, raised the alarm that the revenue base was buckling under the stress of falling price of oil in the international market.
He said the proposed oil benchmark of $78 per barrel for the 2015 budget was not realistic, adding that the Federal Government needed to tell Nigerians the truth about the financial status of the country.
“We have a problem in our hands, but not one that cannot be surmounted with the right political will”, he said.
The senator, therefore, called for a meeting of the National Economic Council, to proffer a collective and workable decision on the national contingency and viable benchmark for oil price.
According to Saraki, crude oil theft, sustenance of subsidy on kerosene, granting pioneer status to some oil companies, as well as the controversial oil SWAP project of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), are some of the problems affecting government’s revenue.
“These are troubling times for the Nigerian economy. Our revenue base is caving in under the stress of falling price of oil in the international market. Due to the drastic and persistent nature of this fall from the highs of $115 in June, it is my considered view that we can’t continue to give the impression that it is business as usual.
“The fact that the free fall in the international oil market price has seen it losing over 25 per cent of early June highs means that correspondingly, our economy has lost over 25 per cent of budget revenue estimates of the period as a result.
“More ominously, the fact that it continues to fall unabated means that it is not getting better yet and, therefore, we must now apply the brakes and act fast before they get out of hand”, he advised.
Aside the issue of the benchmark, the ex-governor said the country needed a contingency plan in place.
“There is no country leadership that can continue to act like business as usual where it faces over 25 per cent drop in its annual revenues.
“Our foreign reserves have depleted considerably from the heights it had achieved of over $58 billion to the $39 billion we have now. What this means is that we have small room to maneuver than we had in 2008.
“Since most of this cost will be borne by the capital side of expenditure, there is a likelihood that the implication will be in job losses, unemployment, social imbalance etc. None of the impact will be positive”, he added.
Senator Saraki said “what is required now is the right political will and leadership from government”.