Corruption ruining Nigeria, fuel subsidy organised crime – Obi


The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, has said that fiscal recklessness, inability to tackle insecurity and corruption have been primarily responsible for Nigeria’s failing economy.

Obi also said that domestic problems, caused by leadership failure, have damaged the unity and cohesiveness of the country.

The former Anambra State governor, while speaking at the Private Sector Economic Forum organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday, said the government that would succeed the Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari regime in 2023 would be confronted by an array of daunting challenges, both domestic and external.

Obi, who said Nigeria was not bereft of transformative ideas from brilliant minds, noted that institutional weakness and lack of political will had led to poor outcomes that had affected the people. He regretted that Nigeria now had frightening levels of poverty, unemployment rate and out-of-school children.

According to him, given our history, politics and governance challenges, moving Nigeria forward would require concerted efforts and a shift from coercive to consensus approach.

“The government that will come in 2023 will be confronted by an array of daunting challenges, both domestic and external,” Obi said.

The domestic ones have accumulated over the years, and because of leadership failure, have not been dealt with, and these have impacted heavily on our unity, social cohesion as well as the economic outcome. It has affected us negatively.

“Our country today is bad news. We now have the concentration of the highest number of people living in poverty, the highest number of out-of-school children, and the highest rate of unemployment.”

He said that leapfrogging Nigeria from oil dependence to industrial revolution, improving human capital development, and formulating good foreign policy must be brought to the front burner in order to revive the nation’s ailing economy.

“This is what is lacking, the political will to deal with the issues that are dealt with elsewhere, the political will to follow the rule of law, the political will to have certainty of a regulatory environment that will attract investments, the political will to show that you can deal with issues like oil theft.

“Who is stealing oil? It’s the rich. For you to steal oil, a ship has to come in and load it. The navy has to approve it. Like the issue of corruption, this is the reason we are not doing well in the corruption index,” he continued.

Obi, while noting that it had become critical to get the people to trust the government again, lamented that only 40m Nigerians were gainfully employed.

“We hear the government complain every day that we have a revenue crisis, that our revenue to GDP is low. That’s what we hear every day.

“The job of the government is to ensure and invest in economic growth, create jobs and employment which will allow people to come and pay taxes. You cannot have a hundred million people living in poverty and you’re expecting robust revenue. Where are you going to get it from?”

Asked how he intended to revive Nigeria’s economy, Obi emphasised the need to make unemployed Nigerians to become productive.

On the crisis with the power sector, the former governor said the government had privatised generation and distribution, leaving the critical link, transmission, in its hands. “We have to liberalise transmission and ensure certainty of the regulatory environment,” Obi said.

According to the Anambra-born politician, insecurity was the first thing that the country must decisively and aggressively deal with, as it posed the biggest threat to Nigeria’s economy.

He said, “Insecurity is the number one thing that is impacting Nigeria’s economic growth today, and we need to deal with it as quickly as possible.”

He further proposed a complete overhaul of Nigeria’s security architecture, reiterating that only a multi-level policing apparatus that is well-equipped could tackle Nigeria’s monstrous security challenges.

“You cannot tell me today that somebody is kidnapped, kept somewhere and they are using a phone to negotiate with his family, in this time and age? If he is sick, they will even invite a doctor to come and treat him, but the police do not know where they are?”

The leader of the ‘Obidient Movement,’ while describing himself as a man who has an allergy to wastage, insisted that all of Nigeria’s assets must be converted from consumptive assets to productive assets.

On Nigeria’s struggle with continuous oil theft, Obi regretted that Nigeria and Venezuela were the only countries unable to meet the OPEC’s oil production quota.

Stating that Nigeria loses trillions of naira on a monthly basis to oil theft, Obi said the government’s ineptitude in dealing with this problem had resulted in revenue shortages which could have been used to solve issues of vital national concern such as the ongoing ASUU strike.

“Even when we talk about what ASUU is demanding, the waste and the stealing would have paid that money. This is a time we critically need every single resource. In July, our production was 1,083,000 (barrels).

So, in July we had 700,017 shortages. Multiply it by 31 days. It is 22.227m barrels. On the average pricing of oil in July, it was $110. So, we lost $2.445bn. We owe ASUU N1.1tn. One month of stealing would have paid that money.”

The PUNCH had reported that the Federal Government had to foregone N16.76tn in revenue to tax reliefs and concessions given to large enterprises between 2019 and 2022

Asked if his government would condone duty waivers as was recently done by the current administration, Obi said all duty waivers must be clearly defined to impact positively on the people.

“You must pay the duty. If you are not going to pay it, it must be as a result of bringing in something for the benefit of the people, like health equipment, not in the presidential clinic, but in the general clinic.”

Speaking on the exchange rate crisis constituting an albatross for many businesses, Obi said Nigeria’s forex crisis would be significantly addressed if Nigeria had been more productive.

According to him, Vietnam, Malaysia, as well as relatively smaller countries had far bigger exports than Nigeria in 2021, despite the country’s comparative advantage in the areas of population size and land mass.

“It is fiscal recklessness because you’re printing money to pay for subsidies. How can a country like Nigeria, with 923 square kilometres of land, 200+ million people – total exports last year was $47bn. It is not acceptable.”

On fuel subsidy, Obi said, “Subsidy is organised crime.    Fifty per cent of subsidy is corruption.”

He proposed the promotion of local, modular refining as a veritable means of refining petroleum products locally and saving trillions of naira wasted annually on fuel subsidy.

In his opening remarks, the President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Michael Olawale-Cole, had said new policy directions, institutional reforms and sound governance were critical to creating a new economic order in Nigeria.

He said all patriotic Nigerians would like to know the plans and intentions of a future president to enhance the choices people would make at the polls.

According to him, the Nigerian economy had been inundated with a myriad of problems among which are oil theft, an unsustainable subsidy regime, insecurity, and a foreign exchange crisis.



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