By Iheanacho Nwosu
FORMER minister of Petroleum, Prof. Tam David- West, yesterday, said there was no need for the Federal Government to panic over the dwindling international crude oil price, saying the nation can still run smoothly in the face of the situation.
Rather, he said there is justifiable reason to worry over the current pump price of petrol in the country. He declared that the pump price could still be lower than its current N86.50.
Speaking in a telephone interview, David-West who was minister of petroleum between 1984 and 85 ruled out any anxiety over the low prices of crude oil at the international market.
“It is nonsense to panic over the current oil price,” the former minister who is a professor of virology counselled. What Nigeria needs to do at the moment, he advised, is to ensure fiscal discipline and zero intolerance for corruption. In addition to that, David-West stressed that Nigeria must ensure low profile budgeting.
International oil price is currently between $30 and $40. Although he admitted that falling oil prices have implication on the nation’s economy since the country is majorly dependent on oil for revenues, he insisted that there was no cause for alarm over the current prices.
He relived the experience during his time as Minister of Petroleum in 1984 when a barrel of Bony light was sold at $30 and even came down to $10 down in April that year.
According to him, government at that time, which incidentally was President Muhammadu Buhari’s military regime, did not panic but still ran the country smoothly .
“All of the fears are not necessary. People should not put the nation into unnecessary anxiety,” he advised.
Asked if he has spoken to President Buhari on this, he answered to the affirmative. He disclosed that he reminded the president of the 1984 experience, which, according to him, “the president agreed with me.”
Prof. David-West insisted that Nigeria is neither in a hopeless state nor is it facing bleak economic future due to the falling oil prices at the international market.
He criticised the current oil benchmark in the budget, arguing that the price is ‘too high’. He said: “There is no point having high oil price in the budget.” The former minister maintained that only fiscal discipline, total eradication of corruption and low profile budgeting must be embraced by the incumbent administration if the country is to overcome the challenge posed by the falling oil price unhurt.
On the current pump price of petrol, Prof. West said the price could still be moved down if government, rather than consumers, bears the cost of bridging and demurrage. He contended that it was unfair for consumers to pay for bridging and demurrage when the government should shoulder it.
“Why should consumers be made to pay if tanker takes a product to Sokoto?” he asked. David-West expressed optimism that Nigeria would not have any economic challenge that would threaten the wellbeing of the people since somebody like President Buhari is calling the shot. “We have a good leader right now, Buhari will not tolerate corruption, he would not do anything that is not in the interest of the nation,” he assured.