Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, has stated that Nigeria cannot join the race for climate change yet because it has to transit to gas and has not attained it base load yet.
He spoke against the rising global concerns about the dangers of climate change largely caused by activities of oil exploration and the use of fossil fuel, leading to the call for the world to shift towards renewable energy to save the environment.
Sylva spoke yesterday on the sidelines of the 50th World Economic forum holding in Davos, Switzerland.
The minister, who spoke exclusively to Arise TV, the sister broadcast arm of THISDAY, said the protracted Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) would be passed this year.
He added that the Nigerian delegation expected a lot from the summit and that it had put its perspective on the table for the world to begin to consider them.
Sylva said: "We have put our perspective on the table, and I think the world will begin to consider our perspective. One of those areas, if you ask me, is climate change. The world has been talking about climate change and movement to renewable; we cannot join that race as yet, because we have not attained our base load.
"We need to at least transit to gas before we can join the race to renewable and we are putting that on the table for the world to understand and to know that they cannot expect us to join the race to renewable as yet."
While exonerating oil producing nations of alleged insensitivity to the call for action to save the environment, Sylva said: "It is not as if oil producers are not listening at all; what we are saying is that gas should be used as a transition from fuel. The argument is not really about renewable; it is about carbon emission.
"Of course, gas produces lower carbon emission. So, we should try to transit to gas before we join the race to renewable. The West has gotten there but we have not quite gotten there yet. If they are spending a trillion for example in Europe to subsidise renewable, then we wonder why that kind of money is not being spent in places where the emissions are produced."
On whether OPEC was likely to extend the additional production cuts for the first quarter of 2020, he said: "Well, it is very likely. It is still premature for me to discuss that because we will go to Vienna in March and then we will take the decision. But we believe that the OPEC+ will hold, and if it holds, then the policies will also hold. And right now we don't see any reason why we shouldn't sustain the cuts."
The minister also reassured the oil and gas sector that the PIB would be passed by the middle of this year, adding that it is unfortunate that the bill has been delayed for a long time.
"I can tell you authoritatively that we have come to the end of the waiting. We believe that by the middle of this year, the PIB will be passed. You know the government today shares a good relationship with the legislature; we are working together; we are on the same page and there is consensus that this bill needs to be passed now," he stated.
On calls for the removal of subsidy on petrol, especially the advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he said: "The IMF has never always been right. We know that they have said that before; they took us to the part of Structural Adjustment Programme and you can see where we are now."
According to him, now is not the best time to remove fuel subsidy because of the burden it would have on the common man, but the government is planning towards that.
"We are trying to see how we can introduce a transitional fuel. I mean, we want to move a lot of vehicles on Nigerian roads to gas so that after a while, people will not really bother so much about PMS, and then we can take out subsidy on PMS," Sylva said.
Also, on whether the NNPC will be privatised to make it more profitable and more efficient, he said: "In the PIB law, NNPC will be incorporated and the JVs will also be incorporated so that they can go out there and get funds through their activities. It is not necessarily going to be privatised in a way people are looking at it, but it is going to be incorporated."
Also, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Mr. Oscar Onyema, stressed the need for more financial literacy drive to improve participation of citizens in the nation's financial/capital market sector.
Onyema told Arise Television on the sidelines of the WEF in Davos: "The first thing to note is that where we are in our development stage as a country, we are classified as a frontier market. That means that there is still a lot of opportunity to grow into an emerging market, and then to grow into an advanced market. So, the Nigerian Stock Exchange is very reflective of the current state of the country in terms of where we are from a developmental perspective.
"Another important thing to note is the level of financial literacy. You can't have financial literacy without having literacy to start with. So, we must do better job as a nation to drive improvement in literacy and in financial literacy. If you look at the banking industry, the number of individual accounts that people have is about 35 million.
"You can't even access the capital market without an account. We have done a lot of things to improve the experience when you engage the market, be it from an issuance perspective to a trading perspective where we have introduced to some of the best technology platforms across the world."