The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, said on Wednesday that he would privatise the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation if elected, describing the state-owned oil firm as a “mafia organisation.”
Atiku was quoted by TheCable as saying at an interactive session with the business community in Lagos that he would take the step even if doing so would cost him his life.
He explained that he sold the idea to President Olusegun Obasanjo whom he worked with as a deputy between 1999 and 2007 but that the former president did not approve of it.
Atiku said he was convinced that the NNPC would run better if not managed by the government.
He said, “Let me go back to my experience. When we got into office, I walked up to my boss and said, “Sir, there are two mafia organisations in government: one is the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation while the other one is the National Electricity Power Authority.
“I said unless we dismantle these mafia organisations, we cannot make progress. Let’s privatise them… the long and short of this is that I am committed to privatisation as I have said. I swear even if they are going to kill me, I will do it (privatise NNPC).”
Atiku also spoke on how an expert in the petroleum sector influenced his stance on the privatisation of the NNPC.
The former Vice President said, “I asked a Nigerian professor based in America; I said, ‘Prof, do you have a ministry of petroleum in America?’ He said no. I said, ‘Do you have an organisation like the NNPC over there?’ He said no. And America produces oil more than any country? He said yes.
“So I asked him, ‘How do they do it in America?’ and he said taxation, and I decided that I will go by taxation too.”
Atiku criticised the current administration for the delay in passing the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill.
He noted that the level of unemployment in the country was worrying, saying that the lack of adequate jobs could create a bigger problem if left unchecked.
He said, “We must create jobs, if not we will get mobbed one day by the unemployed youths. They are like a time bomb… When businesses are folding up, shops are closing, industries are falling, foreign direct investments are not attracted; poverty is embarrassingly becoming our trademark, the rating of our hardworking businessmen by international rating agencies is becoming dismal.
“When we have a government that has remained insensitive to all these, I feel it is the time not only to offer myself for service to salvage the situation but also to reiterate my aim to create a strong, resilient and prosperous economy that creates jobs and opportunities for all of us.”
Atiku stressed the need for technology-driven governance to tackle corruption in the country.
He said, “We are more educated than the UAE and one of the ways they have been able to ensure that there is minimal corruption is to introduce technology-driven governance. They tried to eliminate personal contact between members of the faculty with government officials. We can finally eliminate corruption because it is being played virtually in the public sector. Don’t think we cannot do it; we can do it.
“Fighting corruption is not an economic policy. No country in the world will focus on only fighting corruption; the various toll gates in government are a problem. In Ukraine and Rwanda, money goes directly from the Federal Government to schools unlike here where the money goes through different agencies.”