…Vows to tackle saboteurs in electricity sector • Canvasses fair pricing for gas
IN a clear admission of guilt, some past public officers who misappropriated funds have discreetly begun to return such stolen funds into government coffers.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who is attending the third Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Iran, made the disclosure in Tehran, the Iranian capital at a forum with the Nigerian community in that country.
Buhari admitted that there were those he called saboteurs working to frustrate the nation’s quest for steady electricity supply. He, however, noted that steps were being taken to ensure that the schemes of such saboteurs were neutralised.
To tackle the problems of theft and gas sabotage, the President also announced to them that the existing military task forces would be reorganised to ensure a successful protection of the network of gas pipelines.
Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the president, Garba Shehu quoted Buhari as making the assertion in a question-and-answer session with the Nigerian community.
He assured that the Military Task-Force with representation from the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Police and other security agencies would be reconstituted to secure the pipelines.
Addressing the summit, Buhari charged the GECF to take appropriate steps towards sustaining the pricing of gas at the international market for the benefit of member countries.
Making the call during his remarks at the summit, the president disclosed that Nigeria was taking appropriate steps to turn its abundant gas resources into a veritable catalyst for development just as he called on the forum to foster technical and economic cooperation among member states.
The president’s declaration on alleged treasury looters may have confirmed speculations that some prominent political players in the last dispensation have begun to discreetly return public funds they stole.
Day of reckoning coming soon for treasury looters
Buhari told the Nigerian community in Iran that those accused of corruption would have been prosecuted by now but for the need to thoroughly investigate them with a view to gathering enough evidence for their eventual trial.
He admitted that it was easier for him during his tenure as a military Head of State in 1984/85 to arrest and put those alleged corrupt individuals in ‘protective custody’ for them to prove their innocence but the dictates of rule of law and due process had slowed him down in prosecuting corruption in this dispensation.
On corruption, yes, they are still innocent. But, we are collecting documents and some of them have started voluntarily, returning something. But we want all. When we get those documents, we will formally charge them to court and then we will tell Nigerians to know those who abused trust when they are entrusted with public funds. So, the day of reckoning is gradually approaching.”
Buhari, who disclosed that he was yet to give any policy directive on the electricity sector before the improvement in service experienced in the country in the past few months, said his government would ensure that the needful, especially improvement of security, was done to ensure regular electricity supply.
He said: “I believe if you are in touch with home, you would have been told that already there is some improvement in power supply, though we haven’t said anything to them yet. I think they only find it sensible or appropriate to try and improve power supply.
“I’m sure you know about the privatisation of the power sector; your old friends National Electric Power Authority or Power Holding Company of Nigeria have been sold to a number of interest groups. But, the fundamental thing about us is that we remain potential in everything except performance.”
According to the president, who, doubles as the Petroleum Minister, though the country has a lot of gas reserves, some unpatriotic Nigerians, hide under different guises to sabotage efforts to ensure steady electricity supply.
His words: “We have a lot of gas, we have a lot of qualified people, but again we have a lot of saboteurs who go and blow up installations. Those who steal Nigeria’s crude and those who blow up installations, whether they call themselves militants or whatever, they are still there.”
Buhari also told the Nigerian community that his administration was resolute in combating the Boko Haram insurgency even as he assured them that peace would soon return to the troubled north-eastern states of the country.
Nigeria is gas-supply hub for West Africa
The president, while pointing out that Nigeria, had in the past focused on developing crude oil but was facing global decline in revenues from the resource , however, expressed the hope that the nation’s proven gas reserve base currently put at 188 trillion cubic feet could actually be in excess of 600 trillion when developed.
He assured participants that Nigeria remained the hub for natural gas supply in the West African sub-region with the construction of 681-kilometre West African Gas Pipeline, which currently transmits gas from the country to neighbouring Benin, Togo and Ghana.
He said: “The stability of the energy and financial market is critical to ensuring investments in current and future natural gas projects. It is, therefore, imperative that the GECF plays a significant role towards energy security by driving the formulation of a sustainable pricing mechanism that will guarantee fair and reasonable prices for both producers and consumers.”
Buhari also charged the forum on the need to deploy research and development initiatives towards technology innovations in exploration and development processing, logistics and marketing for the benefit of member countries.
While charging members to ensure that the exploration of gas resources was done in a sustainable manner so as not to jeopardise the security of the future generations of member states, Buhari called on members to ensure optimum gas reserves replacement and more efforts towards ending routine gas flaring in the shortest possible time.
In his welcome remarks earlier, the chairman of the forum and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran called for cooperation of member states for them to get maximum benefits from the natural resources.
This was just as the Secretary to the GECF, Seyed Mohammad Hossein Adeli, informed the forum that Azerbaijan had indicated to join the body as an observer state.
He noted that the body had begun to command international recognition and credibility just as he stressed the need for member countries to build mutual understanding and address common challenges facing gas-producing nations.
Those member countries that attended the summit included presidents of Russia, Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea, Algeria and Bolivia.