The Nigerian minister of information and communication, Professor Dora Akunyili, was given a good lecture by the Venezuelan ambassador to Nigeria, Enerique Fernando Arrundell after she asked the Venezuelan envoy to help attract Venezuelan investors to Nigeria.
Akuniyi, recently in Abuja, asked the South American to help lure investors from Venezuela to her country to help manage the petroleum industry but the Nigerian minister of communication who is in charge of promoting a good image of Nigeria –Rebranding Nigeria- was taught a very tough lesson she hadn’t received even before turning professor.
The Venezuelan envoy, Mr. Arrundell replied, “In Venezuela, since 1999, we’ve never had a rise in fuel price. We only pay $1.02 to fill the tank. What I pay for with 12,000 Naira here (Nigeria), in Venezuela I’ll pay 400 Naira. What is happening is simple. Our President Hugo Chavez decided one day to control the industry, because it belongs to the Venezuelans. If you don’t control the industry, your development will be in the hands of the foreigners.
“You have to have your own country. The oil is your country’s. Sorry I am telling you this. I am giving you the experience of Venezuela. We have 12 refineries in the United States, 18,000 gas stations in the West Coast. All we are doing is in the hands of the Venezuelans.”
The ambassador continued: “Before 1999, we had three or four foreign companies working with us. That time they were taking 80 per cent, and giving us 20. Now, we have 90 per cent, and giving them 10. But now, we have 22 countries working with us in that condition.
It is the Venezuelan condition. You know why? It is because 60 per cent of the income goes to social programmes. That’s why we have 22,000 medical doctors assisting the people in the community. The people don’t go to the hospital; doctors go to their houses. This is because the money is handled by the Venezuelans.”
How come Nigeria that has more technical manpower than Venezuela, with 150 million people, and very intellectual people all around, not been able to get it right? The question is: If you are not handling your resources, how are you going to handle the country?
“So, it is important that Nigeria takes control of her resources. We have no illiterate people. We have over 17 new universities totally free. I graduated from the university without paying one cent, and take three meals every day, because we have the resources. We want the resources of the Nigerian people for the Nigerians. It is enough! It is enough, Minister!”
Nigeria’s economy heavily depends on the oil and gas sector (in 2008 it contributed to 97.5% of export revenues and 81% of government revenues). Recent oil output declined dramatically due to unrest in the Niger Delta region. Militants from the Delta region have demanded a fair distribution of oil resources.
“Despite the country’s relative oil wealth, GDP per capita is about US$1,401 (2008), and poverty is widespread – about 54 percent of the population lives on less than 1 dollar per day,” states the World Bank country brief on Nigeria.