Hon. Sulaiman Yussuff Lasun, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, has said that past and present leaders in Nigeria have had opportunities to develop the nation’s oil and gas sector to drive economic development comparable to other oil producing countries in the world but failed to take action beyond talking.Lasun spoke at a ‘Stakeholders Technical Roundtable on the Perennial Petroleum Products Scarcity in Nigeria’ organised by the House Committee on Civil Society Organisations and Development Partners.
He lamented what he described as failure of successive leaders to take advantage of the previous oil boom to develop other sectors of the economy which would have taken care of uncertainties such as the current experience following the crash of oil price.
Declaring the seminar open on behalf of Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the House Speaker, on Monday in Abuja, the visibly irritated Deputy Speaker said, “Oil was found in Nigeria in 1956 and we started commercial exploitation in 1958 yet we are still talking about fuel scarcity, PIB and the rest of them.
“If you go into history, people have been talking about the oil industry in the last 58 years.
“Let’s all go back to our respective professions and try to impact positively on Nigeria and think how we can develop Nigeria. We talk too much in Nigeria,” he asserted.
He also said, “I went to Malaysia in March, Malaysia is a country of 30 million people with 800,000 mbpd. I want to compare these countries, 30 million. Nigeria with over 170 million people and with 2.2 mbpd that have been negatively affected in the last two months by Avengers militants and we tell ourselves we are rich.
“From simple mathematics, there is a factor of 6.327 when you consider crude oil alone between Malaysia and Nigeria. What does that mean?
“If we have to relate development between Nigeria and Malaysia, that means we have to multiply whatever is in Malaysia by about 6.5 to take the same factor in Nigeria. Yet we say we are rich,” he retorted.
He added, “But this is where the problem is, in Malaysia nobody will talk about oil like it is the only source of income.
“The major source of income for that country is palm oil and they have 80 million hectares of plantation. I am deliberate about this statistics; do not forget that I am an engineer.
“In Nigeria the whole agriculture we are doing, particularly in that sector including those plantation in the wild is just 20 million hectares.
“That’s why I always tell people, we talk too much in this country, even the oil industry we are here to talk about now, exactly 29 years ago I found myself in shell as an NYSC graduate.
“It was 29 years ago I discovered that we don’t have the technology of oil, the skill, the marketing and even the global politics itself.”
Lasun contended that “the problem in Nigeria is not because we have oil, but we have decided on our own by act of omission or commission not to do the nitty-gritty of what it takes to exploit the natural resource in a manner that would benefit the public”.
He said the operation of the oil sector had been shrouded in secrecy to the extent that many political leaders could not even make bold to state the exact amount of crude resources produced on daily basis in Nigeria.
“I remember in the 7th Assembly, I belonged to a committee on Public Service Matters. We were trying to find out what were the issues. The Customs are here, that’s why I want to make this example.
“One of the questions that was asked the representative of the Customs that day was whether they are aware of the amount of oil taken out of Nigerian shores every day, the answer was no.
“Whereas by the nature of that industry, it is the Customs that must have the last paper of the barrels taken out of Nigeria, and yet since 1958, Customs has not been able to access these terminals. So how do you account for those barrels taken out of Nigeria?
“Because of my position in Nigeria today I want to let you know that some of us that are there, we know the problem of Nigeria and how to go about it but the system is structured in a manner that it will be very difficult unless collectively,” he stressed.
Lasun who derided the media for bearing reports that are derogatory to the institution of the legislature and lawmakers alike challenged Nigerians from all walks of life to engage legislators by suggesting actions necessary to improve various sectors of the economy.
He said the job of a lawmaker is not all about passing bills and motions, but taking legislative decisions based on relevant inputs from professionals on how their areas of expertise can be enhanced.
“We have what it takes to move Nigeria ahead. But because people only see the performance of a lawmaker in terms of the number of bills, he or she has sponsored in a year or tenure even when most of these bills never get signed into laws.
“When legislators are elected, it becomes the duty of the public to now engage them on what necessary laws to make in developing the country. You do not expect a lawmaker who’s an engineer like myself to know what is needed to reform the banking sector. It takes professional bankers who run the sector to suggest ways of improving the industry which can now be structured into a bill by a legislator.
”Some group of legislators visited me from the UK recently and a question was asked by Femi Gbajabiamila, the House leader, about how many bills do they pass in the House of Commons every year. They said at best, 13. They pass an average of 10 bills every year.
“In Nigeria the average is every legislator must write 40 to 50 bills then you have performed,” he added.
He further noted that instead of putting too much energy in working multiple bills, more attention could be given to the cleaning up of the nation’s Constitution which he said had been largely untested.
“It is always in vogue for people to say; how many laws have they written in a year, laws are not something you just sit and write, if you go through the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 80 percent of the provisions of that constitution have not been tested.
“If you go to the Constitution of Nigeria, you will read what is called consolidated account and federation account, in another realm both consolidated account and federation account will be interchanged whereas they mean two different things.
“What we should do now is look at the constitution and clean up, not to go and write laws,” the Deputy Speaker urged.