By Babajide Soyode
Nigeria needs to liberate its currency, The Naira, from its shackle to the global price of Crude Oil.
The country would also benefit, enormously, from promotion of Fuel Taxation as an instrument of fiscal revenue generation.
These are two of the core messages of this paper.
I will restate them, add the others and elucidate.
- Liberating the Naira from its shackle to the global price of Crude Oil since the enunciation and adoption of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in late 1980’s by immediate, unceremonious cessation of Fuel Subsidy totally.
- Promoting Petroleum Fuel Taxation as the most efficacious, equitable, and accountable manner of fiscal revenue generation which is directly related to national economic performance and to the direct choice of the fuel consumer. If you do not fuel, you do not pay the tax. This is why there is no agitation over fuel price and fuel taxation in all developed countries, most developing countries where fuel is taxed, and all other non-oil producing countries, which have fuel taxation regime. It is a highly discretionary expenditure.
- Creation of hundreds of thousands of different kinds of jobs and trading activities through the upgrade of Fuel Production and Distribution Assets, namely the NNPC Refineries, the over 5,000 kilometers of products pipelines, 21 depots and pump stations, during the construction period.
- Minimal direct capital expenditure by Government, if any.
- Financial Implications
This proposal is designed conceptually to be fiscally neutral, in reality, if all the policy measures advocated are adopted, and to result in very substantial and stable new source of revenue for Government.
- Only a declaration of complete cessation of subsidy on Petroleum Fuel in any form, either through control of crude oil pricing to any domestic refiner, or ‘‘under recovery’’ by any refinery. In simple and clear language, crude oil will commence, from the date of the declaration, to be charged to all domestic refiners at the competitive equivalent international prices at the domestic terminal of lading, or at the domestic production flow station or quality control centre. In this way, Government will not suffer any revenue loss from domestic consumption compared with export. Currency of pricing is different matter, which shall be handled administratively.
Appropriate Road Network from Dangote Refinery to Main Expressways Dangote Refinery products should reach the widest market inside Nigeria with the lowest cost of distribution. This is possible only if the products transit through existing Pipelines and Depot Network. Road transit is the next lower cost option, but the Host State for the Refinery is yet to honour her obligation to construct appropriate road network from the Refinery to the main expressways into the hinterland. Delivery by sea is most expensive in any direction as it involves the products first going to sea, transshipment in small tankers, and landing charges at seaports. Consequently, a collaboration between Dangote and NNPC Ltd to effect interconnection between Dangote Refinery and Mosimi is in the nation’s strategic interest.
As for imported products, products pricing will reflect full landing costs plus full internal distribution costs and profit, all to be controlled or dictated by market competition.
- The implication, and desired effect of this, is that only the prices of fuel products will change or vary with variation in global crude oil prices for whatever reasons, but the value of the Naira will remain stable. This stability of the Nigerian currency is vital and critical for sustenance of stable economic development and social harmony.
- This was the premise of the paper submitted to Government in 1992, conceived along the Marshal Plan of the United States after World War II to finance European economic recovery and redevelopment, to create a Nigerian Petroleum Patrimony Fund from the difference between the $2.00 per barrel price fixed by SAP for the 250,000 barrels per day of crude oil earmarked for domestic consumption, and the actual average market price of $18 per barrel in 1992/93. This would have resulted in additional revenue of $16 per barrel, and a fund accumulation rate of $4Million daily or $1.469Billion annually. The fund was to be domiciled as a Special Account ONLY at the CBN, and to be dispensed on matching grant basis to States for development of transportation infrastructures, and other critical infrastructures as might be deemed necessary. In the end, the Abacha Administration created the Petroleum Trust Fund from partial removal of subsidy, and the rest is history. This history must not be repeated in this instance!
- Beside the primary and most critical objective of decoupling the Naira from the global price of crude oil, and assuring that its value inheres from the aggregate health and vibrancy of the overall economy, removal of subsidy will facilitate private equity participation in the proposed Fuel Production and Distribution Assets upgrade, since NNPC Ltd alone cannot, and, indeed, should not be allowed to execute the works alone. In order words, the Downstream Industry should be completely deregulated and open.
- Removal of subsidy will also enable NNPC Ltd to emerge from the permanent under-recovery operating status, and generate enough revenue to not only sustain operation but also to invest in the upgrade of the Assets along with private equity.
- The proposed fund from ₦10 per litre fuel tax is open to both NNPC Ltd and private investors for bridging or matching loan to finance the upgrade works. The fund shall be operated by commercial banks under the strict supervision of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
- Government may consider obtaining advance loan from CBN to fund practical human welfare development projects in critical major urban centres like Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Ibadan, Jos, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, Benin City, where potential public blowback to subsidy removal may be fierce. Such projects include completion of ongoing Mass Transit Systems, Procurement of Buses from Local Assembly Plants for donation to these Urban Centres to augment existing mass transit. The loan will be repaid from subsequent revenue accruals from subsidy removal. It is also presumed that well-conceived, fact-based public awareness campaign programmes will be developed and implemented well ahead of the declaration of cessation of subsidy regime, by the National Orientation Agency.
- Fuel Tax
This is not new in most parts of the world. In Nigeria, it has become inevitable in view of our expensive political governance structure, our very narrow industrial range of economic production, our low economic productivity, and, above all our surging population. We are a very poor oil producing nation. It is only fair and equitable therefore that our taxation should, as much as equitably justifiable, be consumption based. Those who consume petroleum fuels should as much as possible pay for the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure, such as roads, which their vehicles ply.
Fuel tax has also become imperative to efficaciously control smuggling of products across our porous borders to neighboring countries where prices are much higher, even when subsidy is removed. Border closure is not efficient, and cannot be sustained indefinitely. Economic damage to the country, not to mention diplomatic stigmatization, will be unacceptable.
Finally, fuel taxation may discourage the myriad of unaccountable taxes being levied willy nilly by all levels of government all over the country.
- Optimization of Strategic Impact of Dangote Refinery on Nigeria’s Economy.
Dangote Refinery products should reach the widest market inside Nigeria with the lowest cost of distribution. This is possible only if the products transit through existing Pipelines and Depot Network, at least in the Southwestern, Mid-Western and North Central regions. Road transit is the next lower cost option, but the Host State for the Refinery is yet to honour her obligation to construct appropriate road network from the Refinery to the main expressways into the hinterland.
Delivery by sea is most expensive in any direction as it involves the products first going to sea, transshipment in small tankers, and landing charges at seaports.
Consequently, a collaboration between Dangote and NNPC Ltd to effect interconnection between Dangote Refinery and Mosimi is in the nation’s strategic interest.
- Implementation Schedule
The present assets were constructed substantially between 1975 and 1980, while Colonel Muhammadu Buhari was Federal Commissioner for Petroleum Resources (1975 – 1979) for most of that period. This author had the honour and pleasure of driving hm and the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, round Warri Refinery when it was being commissioned on 26th September, 1978.
I was the coordinator of the Refinery Project Implementation, and I was firsthand witness to the exemplary leadership Col. Buhari gave to the Oil Industry in general, and to NNPC Downstream Development Projects specifically during the period.
- Clearly, therefore, there is sufficient time still to reenact the same feat in the remaining life of this Administration since only upgrade works will be involved. Significantly, all sites have been acquired, surveyed, cleared, and built. All rights-of-way have been acquired. All geotechnical surveys and soil tests have been performed. Most foundations and underground works have been constructed, and water treatment plants constructed, requiring only modifications and extensions. Most storage facilities have been constructed, requiring only additions. Most plant equipment will be reused, requiring mainly internal modifications, and some changes, where necessary. Instrumentation networks will be completely new, while power plants will be substantially modified. Most, if not all pipelines will be new, but depots will have new storage tankage additions. All the works can be completed in 24 – 36 months.
- Connection between Dangote Refinery and Mosimi Depot can be completed within 24 months.
- Determination of private sector interests in equity participation can be completed in 3 – 6 months.
Approval of Mr. President is of course the starting point. It is widely believed that he is firmly opposed to Subsidy Removal, without which no meaningful progress towards realization of the strategic objectives conceptualized in this memorandum is possible.
Perhaps Mr. President has obtained his Second Mandate for this very purpose! A subsidy policy which in over 33 years of its existence has not only not improved the lot of the poor, but, on the contrary, has only democratized and deepened poverty, needs to go. Subsidy regime has entrenched corruption in the polity. It has all but destroyed the Fuel Production and Distribution Assets whose acquisition the President supervised more than 40 years ago.
Indonesia and Egypt removed subsidy and are better off for it. Our less endowed neighbours in the Sub-Region do not enjoy subsidy, yet they are thriving at their own pace.
The Presidential Economic Advisory Council is hereby beseeched to study the foregoing memorandum in the knowledge that
- the technical proposals are based on over 45 years of operating and practicing experience in engineering design, project management, construction supervision, plant management, strategic planning, and on-going technical consultancy for the last 7 years for the largest refinery project in Africa, and the largest single train in the world;
- that the economic concepts are based on experience of failed policies which are results of selective implementation of policy recommendations;
- that time may be running out before potential explosive manifestation of youth unemployment and disillusionment;
- that Nigeria can still internally finance her economic development programs if they are well conceived and executed with the discipline of the private sector, and propose to Mr. President that the time has come to finally realize the full benefits of the Structural Adjustment Programme, launched 33 years, that has been shackled by the tying of the Naira to the vagaries of the Global Crude Oil Market through Fuel subsidy. The intent then was to promote acceptability of SAP to the elites by shielding fuel prices from foreign exchange market. All other sectors of were liberalized and the banking sector exploded. But the Naira remains fragile till now.
– Engr. Babajide A. Soyode, Fnsche, Fnae
Telephone: +234 – 803 – 321 – 8001
Babajide A Soyode, a Nigerian engineer, is the President of Atlas Poligenics Limited, an oil and gas engineering consultancy firm, and chairman of the Board of Directors of Petrodata, the premier Nigerian upstream hydrocarbon databank, which now covers Cloud Storage services, Electronic Document Management Systems, Document Scanning and Digitisation. He began his career in 1970 as a Chemical Engineer with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and rose to become the Group General Manager in charge of Corporate Planning and Business Development. He was also the past President of the Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers and serves actively as one of the council members.