Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday said payment of high electricity tariffs is inevitable for Nigerian electricity users. Mr. Osinbajo said this while speaking at the Sixth Presidential Business Forum held at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
A statement signed by Laolu Akande, the vice president’s media aide, quoted Mr. Osinbajo as saying that the government is, however, trying not to increase electricity tariffs for now.
“Listening to questions concerning lower tariffs, we must pay higher tariffs, these sorts of things are inevitable,” Mr. Osinbajo said.
“What we are trying to do is not increase electricity tariffs for now, but how we can ensure we clean up the entire value chain. I’m sure you are aware of the Payment Assurance Guarantee which we put in place for over N700 billion to ensure gas is paid for and for liquidity in the whole value chain.
“Today, we will be meeting with the World Bank on a scheme they have been working with us on to fund the entire value chain, and ensure we transit smoothly from where we are, to a much more market-determined policy for electricity. This will involve a fair amount of subsidy and help, the Federal Government and World Bank are working together on that. There is no way of sustaining the current subsidies long term, but we want to ensure the process is smooth.”
Mr. Osinbajo explained that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that a small committee to look at the issue of intervention funds in agriculture be set up, adding that government would ensure that the agricultural intervention funds go to the right people and also monitor the use of the funds.
Commenting on the gridlock in Apapa port, Mr. Osinbajo said that the port is meant to be a 34 million metric tonnes capacity port but it is doing 80 million metric tonnes, making it a port far too small for the size of business it is doing.
“We have met with all of the important stakeholders, asides from those who do their business there like Flourmills, Dangote and BUA. We have also met with the Navy, Police, NPA, Lagos State Government, all federal agencies working in the ports and port concessionaires.
“At our last meeting, we worked on a number of initiatives and agreed on a number of things that have to be done. I went personally to see for myself what was going on in the port area. There is a major problem there, but everyone has agreed on what to do and there is a plan which we are executing. Nothing would happen overnight, but we have a good plan that will make it work.
“We have taken a number of decisions; empty containers are to be relocated to holding bays, shipping companies would no longer be allowed to operate holding bays within the port, tank farms would not to be permitted within the Apapa area and process licensing access to trailer parks by NPA to commence. A task force has been set up to manage traffic within the Apapa and Tin Can Island environs.
“We agreed that Dangote Group will carry out palliative works and reconstruction of some major sections of the Apapa road, which is expected to be completed by June 2018. Procurement processes have also been concluded for construction of Liverpool road to Tin Can, to Mile 2, Oworonshoki up to the toll gate. The Honeywell Group has committed to construct a trailer park, they have started and will complete it very shortly. BUA Group agreed to do the works around the Tin Can Island road. We have it in hand, and we are watching and following up on it.”
The Vice president also assured that government would address the problem around smuggling and what to do when supply does not meet demand. He said there is a huge demand for poultry and despite local production, people are still buying imported poultry.
He said, “Smuggling is a serious threat to our economy, and Mr. President has asked me to head a team to work out what needs to be done. We are making the point to our neighbours, that smuggling is an existential threat, we can’t permit the level of smuggling going on.
“Last year, there was over 500,000 metric tonnes of rice around Christmas, which the Minister of Agriculture told us about and how it came in through one of our neighbours, but we blocked it.
“Now, three shiploads of rice have left Thailand, 120,000 metric tonnes, going to this same neighbour of ours who have very large warehouses where they store this rice. It is very clear that this rice is for us because our neighbours don’t consume parboiled rice, they consume the white broken rice. It is clear that our neighbours do excellent business, with allowing rice to come into Nigeria and other products including poultry
“I think it is important for us as a country, to make the point clear, that we are not going to accept that. We are all within the same economic zone and work together, so we go in a friendly and polite manner as possible, to ensure that this practice stops.”
The Vice president also reiterated the importance of private sector leadership to the nation’s economic policy, adding that government has tried to establish several public – private sector platforms including the quarterly business forum.
“The constant engagement in my view is the way to go. If we continuously engage and interact this way, we will resolve most of the problems that stand in the way of our becoming the great economy that our country surely has the potential to be,” he said.