A professor of Political Economics, Pat Utomi, has faulted the Federal Government’s plan to spend $1.5 billion to refurbish the Port Harcourt Refinery, describing the decision as illogical and unintelligent.
Speaking with The Eagle Online on Monday, Utomi said it would be better to sell the facility to investors who can profitably manage it than to keep sinking funds into refineries “that don’t refine.”
“For years, we have been going through this challenge of refurbishing the refinery; turnaround maintenance. We give contracts to market women, to all kinds of people.
“Politics is the undoing of Nigeria. We give contracts to all kinds of characters to maintain refineries. We have refineries that don’t refine and we spend billions paying people who work there.
“I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that spending $1.5 billion – whether it is being done by the most reputable people in the world – is not logical, not sensible, not intelligent,” said.
The Eagle Online recalls that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Atedo Peterside had earlier also questioned the logic behind the government’s decision to spend so much money refurbishing the refinery.
Utomi also warned that the nation’s worsening youth unemployment is a time bomb that is ticking away silently unless the handlers of the economy urgently do something intelligent to address it.
On the revelation published by Bloomberg on Saturday that Nigeria’s unemployment figure had reached 33 per cent (the second highest in the world), Professor Utomi said it was “depressing”, enough, but that it’s even more depressing to know that youth unemployment in the country is much higher.
He said that the fact that the most energetic part of the population are young people, and that as many as 50 per cent of them do not have work is a time bomb ticking away.
However, he said the current and succeeding leadership still have an opportunity to take this youth force and convert it to ‘a demographic dividend’.
This, he said, can be done by providing appropriate education to these young people; giving them the appropriate skills and providing them access to entrepreneurial capacity and goals.
The solution – short-term, medium-term – to the problem of unemployment is to give our youths entrepreneurial opportunities.
Utomi said: “The political class is keeping Nigeria down,” he said. “We need political education for the citizens; we need the politicians to get hold of themselves and be more mature. Unless we can do this, we will just be sowing poverty. These are the critical things that will turn around the scenario of unemployment.
“And how does it (unemployment) manifest? It manifests in insecurity, if 50 per cent of young people who don’t have work are available as cannon fodder for any ambitious person who has some crazy ideas, like Boko Haram or whatever.
“We must passionately address these issues, roll up our sleeves and commit to rebuilding the youths of our country.
“We can do it on the agriculture value chain. There are several possibilities on the agriculture value chain, to manufacturing, to export in the global market; value chains that we can dominate appropriately and increase production.”