Six more years in the decade of a sexagenarian has given Aare Sarifiyu Kazeem Adebanjo occasion to look straight ahead in deep contemplation. Such retrospective mien affords him the time to reflect on life and express gratitude to the Almighty, for a fruitful life.
In this interview with our correspondent, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SAF Petroleum, who is celebrating his 66th birthday, describes his grace of stature as the blessing of Allah, and particularly urges that it is the duty of all to make Nigeria work, and that, very soon, the nation will emerge stronger from its challenges.
- What is your take on the general state of affairs in Nigeria?
Whatever the challenges we may be passing through, I have that strong conviction that all will soon become history. I think the difficulties are just pointing to the fact that this country is destined to be great. I believe Nigeria is God’s project; that He, the almighty God won’t allow to fail. There’s indeed hope of a better tomorrow; so we all have strong reasons to be hopeful. Let’s all cooperate with our leaders and remain obedient citizens. It is the duty of all of us; the one leading and the led, to make this country work.
- As an entrepreneur, how do you think the unemployment challenge in Nigeria can be eased out?
It is high time our youth began to think of what they can do with their hands, the white collar jobs are no longer available. Even many governments of the world are facing the same challenge, it’s not only Nigeria that is not finding it easy to fulfill their obligation to the workers.
Workers have kept on increasing, leading to increase in wages and other emoluments; whereas, the income has been shrinking. Moreover, other duties of government such as provision of infrastructure like roads, housing, quality education, health services, among others, must also be done. So, let our youth also think of what they could do to be employer of labour, start in a small way and grow the job as time goes on. The government too should provide some kind of support such as soft loan for willing entrepreneurs, provide good roads and stable power supply, and massive investment in agriculture too. All these will help to reduce unemployment.
- What is your advice to young entrepreneurs?
They have to remain focused and be tenacious. As a young entrepreneur, you must be ready to persevere because good things don’t come easily. Don’t cut corners, when you are in need of advice, seek counsel from those that have been well established in the business. Above all, be closer to God, always talk to God in prayer and be confident that it will always get better. Attitude, they say, determine altitude; so it’s important to remain positive in all that we do for greater heights.
- What is your take on the MOU on Lagos-Ogun Joint Commission signed recently by Gov Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Gov Dapo Abiodun?
Lagos and Ogun States are like siamese twins, so doing things in common should be natural to both states. The two states are so interwoven that you will be in some places in Lagos State that are actually in Ogun State. There are so many people living in Ogun but working in Lagos. It is really a welcome development. For instance, the two governors have said that it is under this joint commission that they want to jointly fix Sagamu-Ogijo-Ikorodu expressway, likewise Abeokuta-Sango-Lagos expressway. Imagine what impact these projects will have on the economy of both states.
What drives economy all over the world is partnership. It is in the light of this reality that I want to say synergies and initiatives like this are welcome development, they are good steps towards maximising the abundant potentials in human, financial and other natural resources that will ultimately help in creating better society and making life more bearable for all.
For instance, it is under an initiative like this that both governors are combining strength to fix the impassable Sagamu-Ogijo-Ikorodu as well as Abeokuta-Sango-Lagos expressways, among others. All these, when fixed, will impact positively on the lives of the residents of both states. With the proximity of Ogun State to Lagos, it has a lot to tap from its huge economy and this I am sure, is going to be a plus for the residents of the state.
*What lesson has life taught you in the last 66 years?
Thank you, first and foremost, I must say I am grateful to Almighty Allah for life. There are many of my mates and those who are even younger that have gone, so I am full of praises to the almighty God. One of those lessons life has taught me is that when you strongly believe in a project and you put your efforts into it, you will eventually succeed and that is why I usually urge people not to despair because nothing is static, no condition is permanent. Life has also taught me that we should be mindful of others. If God has worked it out for you, be ready to support others, affect the lives of people around you for good, after all, what will matter most after you have been long gone, I mean dead, are the lives God had assisted you to touch while you were alive. This is quite important, it’s all good we live a life of impact, it makes the society a lot richer and better.
- As an investor in oil and gas, how do we achieve stability in fuel pump price?
It’s the general opinion, based on simple economics that except our refineries are functioning maximally well, such that we can refine our crude oil need here, there will always be instability in the fuel pump price because our crude oil are currently being refined abroad before it is now brought back for us to buy. If this continues, there’s no end in sight for increasing fuel pump price. Rather than wasting another $4bn on Turn Around Maintenance of the existing refineries that have yielded little or nothing in the past, the government should roll out plans to build three refineries within the next 10 years. It’s not to our advantage, I mean those of us in oil and gas that we have to be adjusting our pump price frequently because it also means that cost price has changed and so we will also have to be looking for more capital whenever we want to buy the product for our filling stations.
Building of new refineries would not only help to create thousands of jobs but also in the long run, help to cut down what Nigerians are paying for fuel since it is now produced locally. Rather than wasting fund on repairing the country’s old refineries which has yielded little or nothing, the federal government should concentrate efforts on constructing new refineries that would not only help in providing employment but also guarantee steady supply of petroleum products and thus ease the suffering of all Nigerians. Time is now for the federal government to build new refineries so that we can stop importation of what ordinarily we have in abundance here. It’s against all logic that we are still importing fuel; does that mean we don’t have the wherewithal to build at least two new refineries under two years?
With new refineries, we will be solving the major problem of frequent increment in pump price, ensure steady supply of fuel and as well provide jobs for our teeming youths. The issue of controversial oil subsidy which usually pitches the government against the people will also become history. The implication of this is that the country will have more fund to attend to its developmental needs, among others. One other major constraint confronting the business of oil and gas in the country is the problem of infrastructural deficit and largely, the challenges of bad roads which are more often than not, responsible for tankers’ accident. I am appealing to both federal and state government to help in addressing this problem.