The first ministerial nominee to be screened by the Senate on Wednesday, Dr. Uchechukwu Ogar has said that the current exchange rate of the US dollar to Nigerian Naira is okay.
Ogar, the nominee from Abia state, who was responding to questions by senators said the exchange rate was deregulated in a guided manner to guard against volatility.
He said:” There is no country that allows its currency to be fixed. Every currency is usually being floated. If you decide to deregulate the Nigerian petroleum sector, especially the downstream, it must be a guided deregulation. You don’t allow everybody to dump on us because there will be an impact on our foreign exchange. So, we must guide our currency because our ability to guide it is what makes it go up and go down.
“If we had in the past grew our foreign reserve, I can tell you our currency wouldn’t have gone the way it is today. I believe that with what is going on, the Nigerian naira at the price which it is today, is okay for the nation.”
On how to end continued importation of petroleum products in the country, a question asked by Senator Jubrin Barau (Kano State) ,Ogar called for the resuscitation of the nation’s four refineries and encourage the private sector to invest and build modular refineries.
“There is rot in our refineries. Given the opportunity, I shall go to the root. The best we can do is to have refineries work because importation is impacting on our foreign reserves. If there are people who don’t want the refineries to work, we should show them the way out. If we continue with importation, in the next 10 years, we won’t have money for capital projects.
“Once the Petroleum Industry Bill is passed, it will help the economy in ensuring that investors will come into the country. And once they have guaranteed crude oil. For now, it is like building a house and nobody comes in there. So it is very difficult for people to put their money when they know that there is no source of crude to use in operating their refineries. Most investors in downstream can’t recoup their investment as a result of epileptic policy. We need to create stability in policies so that jobs can be created both upstream and downstream.
“I can assure you that if given the opportunity, the four refineries in Nigeria need to work. Because we have done it in the private sector and I can tell you that it is something that is possible because you get people to do what you want to do. Our refineries can work because what we need is the will power” he said.