Nigerian Bureau of Public Enterprises defends oil industry reforms

Nov 21, 2003 01:00 AM

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has defended the on-going reforms in Nigeria oil and gas section saying it would encourage private sector involvement, lead to better returns to the nation for a faster and balanced development. The director-general of the Bureau, Dr Julius J. Bala, made the defence at the just concluded Lagos International Trade Fair in continuation of the bureau's sensitisation programme for public acceptance of the reforms.
He said it would result to a liberalised operating environment and attain domestic self-sufficiency in petroleum product supply given that the existing refineries would have been made functional and even new ones established. He noted that the sector presently is at the stage of collapse mainly due to problems of inadequate refinery and pipeline maintenance and performance, dilapidated and inadequate reception facilities for imported refined products, and low capacity utilization.

Other problems he pointed out include government control and inadequate pricing which has resulted in illegal domestic price increases and smuggling to neighbouring countries and inadequate working capital. But Dr Bala contended that with the ongoing reforms and privatisation of the sector, better products and services would be made available nationwide at a very competitive rates while curtailing monopolistic exploitation.
According to Dr Bala, when concluded the government's role would "now simply be that of a facilitator through policy pronouncement and not an active participant that would have to commit scarce earned foreign exchange for the importation of products." He further explained that the government would be in a better position to influence growth and development that would either curtail or encourage the consumption of particular products.

In fact, he stressed that the imperatives for privatisation of the downstream sector include:
-- to increase capacity utilization in the refineries and achieve performance,
-- improve the regulatory framework and liberalise prices and imports,
-- eliminate petroleum products scarcity and set the stage for coordinated export to the West African sub-region, and
-- to progressively re-establish the fuel supply-demand balance.

The BPE Director-General maintained that since public enterprises in Nigeria have failed woefully to live up to expectations of Nigerians, the privatisation programme offers a viable route of entering for any genuine local and foreign investor.
Dr Bala assured the bureau's commitment to the reform programme saying "BPE is committed to living up to the expectations of our nation in the honest, timely and transparent implementation of the public enterprises reform programme."

Source: Daily Champion
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