Chief Martin Onovo, a seasoned petroleum engineer is the presidential flagbearer of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the March 28, 2015 presidential poll.
Mr. Onovo, who contested the 2011 presidential election on the platform of the Action Alliance (AA), believes that the solution to Nigeria’s socio-economic and political problems does not lie in the present set of leaders.
Onovo, in this interview with Olisemeka Obeche takes a critical look at key issues concerning the forthcoming general elections and the country’s economy. Excerpts:
What is your take on controversies trailing the use of Card-Reader machine for the 2015 election? Will it not be a big loss to the nation to spend so much money on such technology and discard it because of political expediency?
We need to use the card-readers to enhance the integrity of the elections. INEC must ensure that they are fool-proof as there are reports of cloning of cards. It will be a serious waste of resources if we do not use card-readers. The integrity of the elections will be even more in jeopardy if we do not use card-readers.
An allegation of unprecedented spending on campaigns far beyond what is stipulated by the Electoral Law has been rife in recent weeks with people like you demanding for probe. Why do you think INEC should take such action now?
We must enforce all our laws, (electoral, criminal, civil and commercial laws). Otherwise, we will continue in the prevailing lawlessness and Impunity. The National Conscience Party has promised to re-establish the ‘Rule of Law’. We must do that. Any election conducted without compliance to our laws can only produce an illegitimate, corrupt and ineffective government like the one in place.
Some people have argued that people like you gunning for presidency should have started out from lesser political offices before giving the presidency a shot. How would you react to this?
These are unpatriotic people that want Nigeria to continue in corruption, insecurity, unemployment and poverty. Chief M. K. O. Abiola started with the presidency, persevered and won. We started with presidency in 2011, we have persevered and we will win. I have over 23 years of international engineering and senior management experience across Europe, America and Nigeria. Professionally, I am the most qualified and experienced candidate. If you look at our vision, you will see the superiority of our political capabilities. Leadership universally is about Vision, Vigour, Integrity, Competence and national Acceptability. Our NCP candidates are superior on all counts.
With the prospect of long term slump in crude oil price looming, what measures should the next president of the country and his economic team take to ensure the Nigerian economy remains on track?
Kindly note that Nigeria did better in the past with less revenue when oil price was less than $18 per barrel and our production was only about 1.2 million barrels per day. Remember, the second Port Harcourt Refinery was built in the mid-eighties when oil price was less than $17 per barrel and our production was much less than current levels.
If elected into power on the platform of the National Conscience Party (NCP), we have strong belief that we have sound economic blueprint and ability to assemble a credible team of technocrats and dedicated administrators that can take the country out of its present socio-economic and political quagmire. Our government can take the right measures as our history and legacy confirm our integrity and patriotism in contrast to the parties that have held power since 1999.
An NCP government will very firmly control corruption and waste thereby ensuring that whatever quantity of oil is produced and at whatever price sold is judiciously utilized for development interventions that would impact on the lives of ordinary people of this country. That is what our 4Es of anti-corruption strategy is all about. We will improve electric power supply for domestic productivity. We will reduce the cost of fuel by domestic refining to boost industrial capacity, performance and employment. We will impose luxury taxes on imported luxury items. We will diversify the economy particularly by investing in Agriculture, Solid Minerals and Tourism for more foreign exchange revenue and savings. This will also arrest the decline of our Naira.
Do you consider the latest austerity measures introduced by the presidency as the antidote for the revenue squeeze facing Nigeria?
The austerity measures are hypocritical and particularly superficial. Look at the level of corruption and impunity. Look at the size of the presidential aircraft fleet and the associated waste. Even great world powers do not indulge in such waste. While we strive to grow our revenue, we must also protect what we have from loss to corruption, waste and inefficiency.
A lot has been said about diversifying Nigerian economy in recent years without tangible results. What key areas should government explore as a matter of urgency to raise the country’s non-oil revenue and reduce dependency on oil?
We must approach this from both the perspective of raising revenue and of conserving foreign exchange by improving domestic productivity. Our (National Conscience Party) government will increase domestic refining and thereby, save foreign exchange wasted on the paradoxical importation of petroleum products. Consequently, we will reduce the price of petroleum products to domestic cost recovery levels that are much cheaper. This will fuel the economy better for higher productivity. We must diversify the economy. Agriculture, Solid Minerals and Tourism offer very attractive opportunities for significant savings and increased revenue to reduce our dependence on oil.
Many people believe it is still inexplicable why Nigeria has remained a petroleum products import dependent nation, despite having four refineries and licenses for more than a dozen more. What do you consider as the solutions to Nigeria’s petrol refining challenge?
It is not inexplicable. The explanation is the dysfunctionality of the illegitimate and corrupt government. The ultimate solutions lie in a legitimate and responsible government that will control corruption and also develop and implement the right policies diligently. This is what our National Conscience Party (NCP) offers our people.
Should federal government pursue privatization of national refineries or continue to maintain and manage them while supporting private investors to build modular refineries?
A government must be ethical and consistent to be effective. Whatever ethical and patriotic policies adopted by a government will work with diligent implementation. It is not the ideological details; it is the level of corruption and politicization of national development priorities including national security. Whatever direction a government prefers, it must be competent, consistent and ethical to be effective. An NCP government will revamp and upgrade existing refineries and build new ones to ensure first, super-sufficient domestic supply and ultimately, export refined products instead of crude oil.
What measures should government take to resuscitate various modular refinery projects whose licenses were issued over 12 years ago?
The performance of licensed companies must be ethically evaluated against the terms and conditions of their licenses with sound professional judgment. Corrective actions must be taken to ensure performance.
Controversy still trails the power sector privatization with many clamouring for a review of the programme following the poor performances of the firms so far. What is your take on this?
What you call the privatization of the power sector is what we call the corrupt conversion of public power assets to private property. It was not in our national interest and will continue to create even more problems for us. You may be aware of the problem of the DISCOS with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN). The only way to get the right answer is to do things right. We must do it right. We cannot continue to do the wrong things and expect the right results. A National Conscience Party (NCP) led government will do what is right.
Despite huge investment and promises of quantum increase, Nigeria’s power generation is still below 5,000MW and electricity supply still erratic. What do you see as the missing link in this power sector reform?
2014 average power generation is about 3,060MW. The power sector reform was corrupt and also unconstitutional. So, it must be reviewed. It has failed as expected. We made it clear to all that it will fail when it was introduced. It has failed because it is corrupt!
Do you think Nigeria should explore coal as alternative energy source in its bid to tackle this power crisis?
The National Conscience Party (NCP) government will utilize coal for energy generation. We will emphasize gas and will also use coal. It is reported that over 60 percent of American electric power is generated from coal. We have abundant supply of high quality gas and high grade coal in Nigeria. The old Oji River power station was coal powered.
What is your take on the latest tariff hike, suspended for six months for ordinary customers, as well as the issue of estimated billing and shortage of prepaid meters across the country?
A dysfunctional government creates a dysfunctional country with dysfunctional situations. Business is for profit and so the private companies fronting for their political principals are desperate to exploit our people. An NCP government will clear all these dysfuntionalities.