Wednesday, 18 May 2016

VP Osinbajo explains why President accepted New fuel price regime

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, asserted yesterday at a public book
presentation event in Abuja "If there is one person in Nigeria that
believes that petroleum prices should not go up by one Naira, it is
President Buhari,".
Explaining the difficult decision announced last week by the federal
government, Prof. Osinbajo said the President simply had no other
option. Although the President did not want the fuel price to go up,
the Vice President said "he is left with no choice. What can we do if
we don't have foreign currency, we have to import fuel."
While observing the petroleum products are being imported today into
the country, he asserted that even "if we repair our refineries today,
we would still be able to refine 40% of our petroleum, so we still
need to import."
Prof Osinbajo then raised a rhetorical query: "in the absence of
foreign exchange and you have to import your refined petroleum, what
are you left with?
The Vice President who spoke at the public presentation of Anatomy of
Corruption in Nigeria: Issues, Challenges & Solutions, a collection of
essays edited by Yusuf O. Ali, SAN, asserted that "a lot of the
problems associated with the refineries are corruption related."
He also attended the public presentation of Prof. Ladipo Adamolekun,
who just published his autobiography, I Remember.
According to the VP, corruption "explains why many States are owing
salaries and continue to owe salaries."
Furthermore he noted that "when we look at corruption and its
deleterious consequences, we must relate it directly to what we are
experiencing at this time."
For example, he said "most of the States, since February 2016, many
have been owing, some up to 6 months. When we came into office we
tried to settle many of those debts but the Federation Account is
lower and we are unable to find the resources to shore up the
Federation Account."
Driving home the point about the consequences of corruption, the Vice
President said "When you consider that today, Nigeria's reserves
stands at about $27billion and we are investigating $15billion from
one sector alone. That is over half of the entire reserves of the
country.
"We are investigating cases which shows that over $15billion was lost
in one type of contracts alone. We are not talking of oil contracts,
we are talking of security related contracts alone. We have not talked
at all about oil contracts, several billions.
"How we dimension the problem must be different. We can not look at it
the same way as if it is just petty stealing. This is not just
stealing the resource of the country, it is stealing the future as
well.
"Let me just state one clear example. All through the period when
Nigeria was earning over 100 - 115 dollars in proceeds of oil for a
period of almost 5 years, the external reserves of Nigeria remained
much the same. It did not (significantly) increase at all despite the
very high earnings.
"And that is why we have the situation that we find ourselves today.
It is the external reserves that a country resorts to as a last resort
in protecting its currency."
Doing a quick international comparative analysis using another
oil-producing country, the VP said :
"when countries were experiencing these high prices, some countries
were putting money aside, Saudi Arabia saved over $700billion,-(as at
last year) so when their currency began to suffer, of course they were
able to shore up their currency with their reserves."
In the case of Nigeria however, Prof Osinbajo lamented that "we are
unable to do so. And the reason is because the reserves have been
depleted. It is the same reason why it is difficult to do very very
many other things that we should be doing as a nation."
He then declared that corruption poses an existential threat to the country.
"I want to just very quickly say that corruption has no label. It is
not just a social evil, it is an existential threat to our country.
There is no doubt at all that this is unlike other countries, (where)
people say that there is corruption everywhere, which is true.
"But I think the one distinguishing feature for Nigeria and for many
other countries like ours is that it is a threat that directly affects
the lives and livelihoods of everyone.
"It is not just an evil, it is not just an immorality, it is an
existential threat because it could truly destroy lives and it has
destroyed many many lives and has continued to destroy the Nigerian
economy."
Prof. Osinbajo then declared that "unless there is a determined effort
to fight corruption at all levels, unless that effort is determined,
unless we have the political, the judicial, even the religious will,
we would find ourselves in a continuous cycle of corruption, economic
adversity, more corruption, more economic adversity."
"As I observed at another event, when you look at those who are
accused of corruption in Nigeria, look at any typical case of fraud or
corruption, you will never find three Igbo men (by themselves alone)
or three Yoruba men or 3 Hausa speaking men, (by themselves alone) NO!
You will find federal character, well-represented.
"You find the Yoruba man, you find the Igbo man, you find the Hausa
man, the Fulani man. All different groups are very well-represented.
Amongst them you will find Christians and you will find Muslims.
"All of the defenses that people put forward, that, oh! it is the Igbo
man, oh! it is the Hausa man, it is Yorubas, and so on, none of that
is demonstrated by the facts. "That is why it is important that as a
Nigerian elite, we have the special privilege of education, we have a
special privilege of position. It is the responsibility of that
privilege that we must fight everything that normally hinder and
distorts our economy and kill our people as well."
"That is why we must as an elite in leadership fight corruption. Some
people suggest it is a matter of religion, It is not a matter of
religion, I pastor a church. I pastor churches, so I know. What is
important is that we must recognize corruption for what it is. Make no
excuses for it and fight it with determination.
"I want to assure you that the government of President Buhari is
determined to fight corruption, and that despite whatever those
naysayers may say, we would fight it with everything that we have and
we will leave a legacy in this nation of at least a government that
chose to stand by principle and chose to stand by doing things right."

Laolu Akande
Senior Special Assistant-Media & Publicity
In the Office of the Vice Presiden

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