LAGOS / LONDON. The 2015 Presidential Candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Chief Martin Onovo, recently, granted an interview with one of our senior correspondent. In the course of the interview, Onovo spoke on a range of present torrid issues in Nigeria politics. Excerpts:
The proposed emergency national economic conference, will it be beneficial for our economic development?
Engr Martin Onovo: The national economic conference is Prof Wole Soyinka’s radical idea to address the frightening lack of a clear economic direction by the APC Federal Government. This directionless situation has resulted to serious economic strain including; Stock market losses, Hyper-inflation, Job losses, deteriorated Exchange rate, increasing poverty, gloomy outlook, etc. We must emphasize that it is too late in a four-year tenure to be searching for an economic direction after 9 months in office. The direction should have been developed prior to the campaigns, validated after the elections during the two-month transition period with implementation starting soon after inauguration. Any recommendations from the economic conference will have to be reviewed and possibly approved by the bureaucracy and the political leadership after the conference. This may take another two months and that will clearly imply that the country has lost one whole year in a four-year tenure. This is the best case.
The worst case is that the proposed economic conference fails to develop an acceptable economic direction. In this worst case scenario, the directionless situation will continue and the economic situation will get worse.
This worst case scenario may be more likely as the APC government so far has shown a lack of competence to perform simple tasks like developing a reasonable budget proposal after nine months and two incompetent and corrupt attempts. We think that the current crisis is foundational and will require a very radical situation that most Nigerians may not have realized yet and that is that; the present APC government lacks the critical requirements for success in government. Specifically, the government lacks a clear leadership Vision, it lacks the leadership Vigour, Integrity and Competence to be successful. Therefore we can only use a damage control approach to manage the government or remove the political leadership from office. These are the only constitutional alternatives we have identified at this time.
Those that fail to plan; plan to fail. All the opposition parties and non-partisan professionals agree that the APC has no plan for governance. ‘Everything rises and falls on leadership’.
Fuel scarcity has continued. What is responsible for this and what can we do?
Engr Martin Onovo: Fuel scarcity has continued. Yes. We cannot take the wrong decisions and expect the right answers. Supply of petroleum products is very basic, and, a simple ‘Petroleum Products Supply Management System’ will ensure super-adequate supply and eliminate scarcity. But an appropriate ‘Petroleum Products Supply Management System’ for Nigeria can only come from an effective Federal Government. We cannot reasonably expect that from an ineffective government that has failed in all its basic responsibilities and needs a Prof Soyinka to inform it about the ‘parlous’ state of the economy and then go further to advise it to convene an ‘Emergency Economic Conference’ to chart a way-forward.
Simply, anything that constrains supply of petroleum products can cause scarcity. These constraints include, bureaucratic delays, policy uncertainties and somersaults, banking restrictions, strikes and industrial crisis, corruption, incompetence, etc. An appropriate ‘Petroleum Products Supply Management System’ for Nigeria will have clear Objectives, Scope, Roles and Responsibilities, Procedures, Preventive Systems, Verification Systems, Correction Systems, Feedback and Update provisions, etc. This is basic and simple in modern management best practices.
The way-forward is simple. Restore and increase domestic refining capacity through refining plant maintenance and upgrade programs. This will boost national productivity, increase employment, strengthen the Naira and increase our GDP. In the interim, engage only competent engineering managers to develop and oversee a ‘Petroleum Products Supply Management System’ to ensure adequate supply of petroleum products from foreign sources, till we can fully restore domestic supply.
Is the proposed increase in electricity tariff in Nigeria justifiable?
Engr Martin Onovo: The attempt to increase electricity tariff is very unfortunate but not unexpected. It is even more unfortunate that the Minister of Power has denigrated his high office and reduced himself to become the spokesperson of private electricity distribution companies [DISCOs].
These GENCOs and DISCOs converted our public assets to their private assets with their false promise that they will provide sufficient and stable high quality electricity power to Nigerian consumers. We all knew it was false because, they lacked the Technical expertise, the Financial capacity and the corporate Experience to do that. We were all also aware of the special interests behind these private ‘Special Purpose Vehicles’ [SPVs]. We opposed the conversion of these assets but the special interests drowned our opposition with their media hype. Again, ‘We cannot take the wrong decisions and expect the right answers’. The government made the wrong choice and choices have consequences. We must first admit the errors of the past and then, professionally and constructively deal with the consequences of the errors.
Since, ‘Everything rises and falls on leadership’, we cannot achieve our national electricity power objectives with the wrong and ineffective leadership. The current Minister for power, Mr. Raji Fashola, may need to improve the Moral, Professional and Organizational performance of the ministry.
The DISCOs in their impunity have disregarded our rights, violated relevant regulations and agreements and seek to blackmail Nigerians to pay unjustifiable bills. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission [NERC] must improve its regulatory capacity and ensure that our rights as citizens, consumers and yes, Sponsors of these private power entities are respected. Issues like; lack of Meters even seven months after outrageous payments for them, Crazy bills, Corruption, Extortion, rejection of Power allocations, Stability of supply, Operations efficiency, Maintenance effectiveness and Customer service must be addressed.
The new tariff may not be morally and legally justifiable since these private entities previously imposed the ‘Multi-Year Tariff Order’ [MYTO] on us. Their claim of the current tariffs not being cost-reflective are ethically incorrect. They must comply with the MOU and all relevant regulatory guidelines first before we can investigate their claims about the current tariffs not being cost-reflective. Very importantly, we must remind these private power entities that we have provided over N200 Billion [Two Hundred Billion Naira] for them as intervention funds since they converted our assets. It is important that we realize that the errors of our past and present cannot be wished away freely. We must first admit them and seek strategic and professional ways to remedy them. They can all be remedied.
Since, ‘Everything rises and falls on leadership’, only an ethical and competent political leadership can steward an efficient development of the Nigerian power sector.
We must first get the political leadership right.
Martin Onovo, a public figure and eminent consulting engineer. He was the 2015 Presidential Candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP)