President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had his first meeting with the country’s heads of security agencies at the Presidential Villa Abuja with a stern order to ruthlessly deal with oil thieves.
He also warned that his administration would not condone a situation where security agencies work at cross purposes.
Fielding questions from State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, National Security Adviser (NSA) Major-General Babagana Monguno (retd) said the President made it clear that he would not accept a situation in which the nation’s fortunes keep declining.
“All agencies must work to achieve one single purpose. Working at cross purposes and colliding with each other is not something that he will condone. He has made it very, very clear that all the security agencies must comply with the demands of coordination, with the demands of frequent consultations and also timely reports which must be acted on,” he said.
President Tinubu was also quoted as mandating the security agencies to come up with a blueprint, stressing that he doesn’t have the luxury of time.
“The president commander-in-chief of the armed forces has just concluded a meeting of the general security appraisal committee consisting of the Chief of Staff, Service Chiefs, Inspector General of Police, and heads of the intelligence agencies.
“This is the very first meeting he’s had with the heads of the security agencies. The meeting lasted two hours. Having been briefed by the participants of the meeting, Mr. President addressed prevailing issues confronting the nation in terms of insecurity and also mentioned his own philosophy towards dealing with national security issues.
“First and foremost, he appreciated the armed forces and intelligence agencies and the wider paramilitary agencies for the work they have been doing in the past couple of years, their sacrifice, their loyalty, and he also paid tribute to those who died in defending this country, from the great big menace of terrorism, insurgency banditry, oil theft, sea robbery, piracy, etc, etc.
“The President has made it very, very clear that he’s determined to build on whatever gains have been made and to reverse misfortunes and turn the tide in our favour. As far as he’s concerned, this country should not be on its knees struggling while other countries are walking and achieving greater heights.
“The President has revealed that in moving this country forward, he needs the security agencies to redouble their efforts. And he’s also pointed out that his own philosophy is one of contemporary security measures dealing with the requirements of the time.
“He has made it very clear that he will not accept a situation in which our fortunes keep declining. And his own trajectory is that national security has to be coordinated, there has to be wherever or whatever it takes, whether it is a basket system, but there must be a clearing house.
“All agencies must work to achieve one single purpose. Working at cross purposes and colliding with each other is not something that he will condone. He has made it very, very clear that all the security agencies must comply with the demands of coordination, with the demands of frequent consultations and also timely reports which must be acted on.
“He is going to embark on a lot of reforms in terms of our security architecture, he is going to take a closer look at our misfortunes in the maritime domain, focusing particularly on the issues of oil theft that is not going to tolerate. Wherever the problem is coming from it must be crushed as soon as possible.
“He has already mandated the security agencies to come up with a blueprint as far as he knows as far as it’s concerned; it doesn’t have the luxury of time. And whatever changes will be made have to be done as soon as possible.
“The President also has decided that whatever measures the armed forces are going to be engaged in, they must carry along those operatives in the theatre. They must be well fed, well kitted, motivated and given all that they require.
“President has said clearly that you will do whatever is within his powers to enable the operational elements but the intelligence agencies must also make their work easy for them by providing the type of intelligence that they require carrying out the assignment.”
In a related development,Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) Mele Kyari also said President Tinubu has directed that some palliative be put in place for Nigerians to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal.
He similarly assured that the renovation work on one of the moribund refineries would complete and operation would resume before the end of the year.
Kyari spoke to journalists Thursday after a closed-door meeting with members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the national secretariat in Abuja.
Kyari said: “There is a gradual process now of making a flexible and single effect regime. Everyone will be able to have access to foreign exchange and there is a transition going on now. And NNPC cannot continue to be sole importer. We know that this is going to vanish and the market will stabilize this.”
On the rehabilitation of the four refineries, he added: “There is an ongoing process of rehabilitation and one of the refineries will come on stream this year. The second will come on stream next year and the third will come in 2025.”
The GMD also said it was very obvious that the country could no longer afford the subsidy payment and it had to be removed.
He said: “Subsidy bills has piled up. The country is not able to settle NNPC for the money we are spending on the subsidy. Therefore, pricing this petroleum at the market is the right thing to do at this time. We believe that this will benefit the overall country in the long run and in a long term.
“I am aware that Mr President has directed some engagement and some palliative will be put in place and I am very sure this will happen.”
Kyari explained that there was provision for subsidy in 2022, but added that in 2023, not a single Naira was provided for the purpose of financing the subsidy.
“And ultimately while we held back our fiscal obligations, we still have a net balance of over N2.8 trillion that the federation should have given back to the NNPC.
“For any company, when you have negative N2.8 trillion, there is no company in the whole of Africa that will lend to you. You cannot have receivables. The provision of subsidy is there but absolutely there is no funding for it. It means it is only on paper. So, it doesn’t exist.
“So, we no longer can bear it because of liquidity. If we continue, we will run into defaults and the defaults of NNPC is the default of Nigeria. Once NNPC goes into defaults and liquidity, it affects every borrowing done by the country. Even the sub-nationals. Your lenders will come back to you and say your country can no longer pay.”
Kyari pointed out that when President Tinubu announced subsidy was gone, within 24 hours, the bond market appreciated.
“It is nothing else other than the statement around subsidy and balancing of the apex market. These two elements are major concerns that every investor all over the world, every partner that we have is worried about. What is your apex regime and how do you deal with your subsidy?
“They know that this subsidy constitutes a huge amount of money and this country may not be able to survive and pay its debts. It is very clear that everybody understands this.
“Before today, the average subsidy level was N400 billion every month. That means every month you can do one major capital project from money that you do not have. This is really what it means. There is nothing anybody can do about it. There is this common argument that the masses will suffer. That we are going to have problems with them. I agree. That once you increase prices of this proportion, as it has happened, it will have impact on inflation. There is no doubt about it. It is very typical also; it goes up and down. The market determines what happens next.”
Kyari said Tinubu targets 7 per cent growth of GDP, noting “you cannot have this if there was distortion in demands and consumption patterns.
PANDEF faults timing
Meanwhile, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), led by the South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark, has thrown its weight behind the fuel subsidy removal, but faulted its timing.
PANDEF National Publicity Secretary Ken Robinson said this while addressing journalists Thursday in Abuja.
He said: “Fuel subsidy is a serious issue. There’s an expression that says extreme disease requires extreme methods of cure. We think that fuel subsidy is an economic deceit, Nigerians at some level need it and some people abuse it. It has been as long as we remember a drain on the country’s resources and particularly the resources of the Niger Delta people.
“Let me say that President Tinubu’s statement during his inauguration address that fuel subsidy is gone, was rather imperious and a bit insensitive to the mood in the country. It could have been expected that the President would have avoided it and spoke to other issues and perhaps thereafter engage stakeholders at various levels before coming up with any statement of fuel subsidy.
“But the truth of the matter is, fuel subsidy cannot be sustained. People become billionaires overnight from that racket. There are a lot of anomalies from this fuel subsidy, so it has to go, PANDEF supports that it has to go.
“But in the process of making that announcement, the timing was not right with due respect to Mr President and I think what they need to do now is damage control and quickly gather stakeholders at various levels of government and bring up a national process to see how we can manage and reduce the negative effects of this decision that was taken.”