Nigeria's fuel subsidy unsustainable: Emmanuel Kachikwu, Managing Director, NNPC

Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, Group Managing Director of NNPC

The new head of Nigeria‘s state oil company said on Thursday the country’s fuel subsidy was an unsustainable drain on the economy, calling for deregulation of the oil and gas sector.

“Subsidy creates distortions in government revenue distribution,” Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Managing Director Emmanuel Kachikwu said in a speech in Lagos, the country’s financial hub.

Nigeria produces some two million barrels of crude a day but despite its huge reserves, the country imports much of its fuel due to insufficient refining capability.

To make fuel affordable, Nigeria has frozen the price of a liter of petrol at 87 naira ($0.44, 0.39 euros), lower than the market rate. Fuel importers expect subsidy payments from the government to make up the difference.

“Subsidy accounted for 20 percent of the federal government budget in 2013,” said Kachikwu, appointed earlier this month by President Muhammadu Buhari to spearhead reforms in the oil sector.

The government ended fuel subsidies in 2012 but was forced to partially reinstate them when petrol prices more than doubled, causing mass protests.

Nigeria spent more than five trillion naira ($25 billion/22.5 billion euros) on fuel subsidies between 2006 and 2012, Kachikwu said in the speech to a conference of energy correspondents.

The Harvard-trained lawyer called for speedy implementation of deregulation in the sector which he said would encourage investment.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, with 37.4 billion barrels of crude in its reserves.

Crude accounts for more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s export earnings and about 80 percent of federal government revenue, Kachikwu said.

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