Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian President said he regretted not privatising the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, during his eight years in office.
The former president, while speaking in Lagos yesterday at the opening of a two-day maritime conference, said the Federal Government should allow the organised private sector play a critical role in repositioning the nation’s moribund assets and infrastructure.
Obasanjo said past experience in Nigeria has shown that the private sector will always make a meaningfully contribution to the sustainable growth and development of the nation when given the opportunity.
While pointing out that the organised private sector had aided and stabilized the nation’s telecommunications industry by creating jobs and paying money to the government on a sustainable basis, he regretted not privatising the NNPC.
He said, “NNPC is supposed to be doing well like Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG).
“The involvement of the private sector will ensure growth.”
Obasanjo noted that NLNG is doing well because of the involvement of the private sector.
He said, “The NLNG is making money for the government because of the involvement of the private sector.”
Obasanjo added that Nigeria’s maritime sector had not made much impact because of lack of transparency.
He said, “A General once left this country with two ships. He later came back with no accountability.
“That cannot happen in the private sector.” Obasanjo, who was chairman of the event tagged “Building a sustainable maritime industry in Nigeria,” noted that corruption was one of the factors hindering growth and development of the nation.
He further disclosed that he met five ships while he took over as head of state and later bought 19 more before leaving office in 1979, but added that, “20 years after and in 1999, there was no ship left.”
He said while one of the ships was sold as a scrap for $500,000, “government later bought the same ship for $2 million. It was repaired for $1million.
“It was later seized for not being sea worthy, I was informed. We were asked to pay $2 million.
“I told them to keep the ship. It was later released (without any payment).”
Obasanjo said over 90 per cent of global trade is carried out via the sea, noting that “this underscores the fact that a sustainable maritime industry has direct impact on the economy of the nation and also determines the competitiveness of its export.”
He said, “The private sector should be encouraged to take the driving seat in the development architecture of the Nigerian maritime industry.
“Hopefully, this will bring about the desired efficiency in the management of the project and sustained funding.
“Nigeria should look beyond its national maritime sector as an economic hub for the country but should by now be consolidating its position as the regional and global force in the maritime domain,” he said.