President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said the only way to attract investors to the downstream petroleum sector and make fuel products available is to scrap subsidies. He spoke in Abuja while receiving a report from participants of the Executive Course 34 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos.
"Why is it that people are not building refineries in Nigeria despite that it is a big business? It is because of the policy of subsidy, and that is why we want to get out of it," the President said. Jonathan's comments came as fuel crisis persists in the country, with people linking it to an alleged back-door plan by government to end petrol subsidies.
The previous attempt to scrap the support regime ended in a fiasco in January, as strikes and street protests forced the government to return part of the subsidy.
Before government backed down, petrol prices went wild as a result of the subsidy removal, leading to rocketing transport fares and prices of goods and services.
Yesterday, Jonathan said though subsidy removal would bring hardship to the people, it is a necessary pill.
"To change a nation is like surgery," he said. "If you have a young daughter of five years who has a boil at a very strategic part of the face, you either as a parent leave that boil because the young girl will cry or you take the girl to the surgeon.
"So you have the option of just robbing Mentholatum on the face until the boil will bust and disfigure her face or you take that child to the surgeon. On the sighting of a scalpel of the surgeon alone, the child will start crying.
"But if she bears the pains and do the incision and treat it, after some days or weeks, the child will grow up to be a beautiful lady.
"There are certain decisions that government must take that may be painful at the beginning and people must be properly informed so that they will be ready to bear the pains," he added.
Jonathan said Nigeria would witness a turn-around within 10 years if the right policies are executed.
"I believe that you do not need a lifetime to change a nation. Under 10 years, Nigeria can change and people will not even believe that this is Nigeria again. Immediately you come up with strong policies in key sectors of the economy and keep it for 10 years, the change will be astronomical," he added.
Presenting their report titled "Resource diversification for sustainable economic development in Nigeria", the graduating NIPSS participants said the security situation in the country was a disincentive to business.
"One of the greatest threats to security is unemployment. It provides for unemployed youths and other disgruntled persons to attack the system which they believe is responsible for their plights," the report said.