By Yemie Adeoye
AS stakeholders and operators in the downstream sub-sector of the petroleum industry continue to find a lasting solution to the myriads of problem bedeviling the sector, the federal Government has asserted the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) currently before the National Assembly is the only panacea to private sector investment to boost the countryâ€™s refining capacity.
This is coming in response to submissions by most participants and presenters at the downstream stakeholdersâ€™ forum organised by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to resolve the lingering crises in the sector.Â Not a few of the speakers opined that it has become almost inevitable for the federal government to improve the refining capacity of the country.
They opined that it is not acceptable for the country to rely 100 percent on importation of products, thereby ignoring the refineries totally.
The Minister however stated that the issue as well as many others raised at the conference have been incorporated in the PIB, and with the passage of the bill investors would surely want to come to the country as the Nigeria is remains a huge market.
He further stated that the refineries are currently in position to operate fully as the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries have been carried out.
Further reports emanating from the forum indicates that the federal government may have decided to commence the usage of vessels to compliment the pipelines which are currently in a state of disrepair as a result of constant vandalism.
However, the Minister further noted that the full deregulation of the downstream sector, though highly appreciated as a panacea to the myriads of problems bedeviling the sub-sector may not be implemented anytime soon as there are need to put a lot of measures in place to be able to act in a deregulated system once it kicks off.
According to him government would not want to give a date that could not be implemented and as such would rather concentrate on putting those measures in place.
â€œI would like to take a look at the issue of refineries.Â It is public knowledge that successive governments have granted refining licenses to many companies, with the hope of increasing our domestic production of refined products.
But to this day no single refinery has taken off. Our analysis has led us to the conclusion that the enabling environment for the establishment of refineries does not exists in the country today.Â We have identified what constitutes the enabling environment and these have been incorporated in the petroleum industry bill.
Executive Director Refineries and Petrochemicals in NNPC, Austin Oniwon further stated at the forum convened by the Corporation in Lagos that the directorate was already putting finishing touches to the idea of using vessels and sea crafts to convey crude oil from production rigs and platforms nearest to the refineries.
Oniwon said the idea was to reduce the dependence on pipelines in the movement of crude to refineries due to incessant attacks.
â€œFor so long the vital Chanomi Creek pipeline conveying crude from Escravos to Warri and Kaduna Refineries has been the butt of militant attacks aimed at crippling the fuel supply situation in the country,â€ he said.
Oniwon was upbeat that the plan which was on the verge of leaving the drawing board would go a long way in solving the problem of providing stock feed to the refineries.
Declaring the forum, which was meant to find a concrete solution to the challenges facing the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry open, Group Managing Director of the Corporation, Dr Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, charged the management of the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC) and the refineries in the country to come up with practical solutions to end the perennial fuel supply and distribution challenge.
Barkindo stated that the NNPC as a national oil company must take the lead to address this challenge in a holistic manner.
â€œWe cannot continue to sing the same song of excuses. This is embarrassing not only to us as managers of the industry but to all other Nigerians as well. This is a practical forum where we are only interested in practical and innovative solutions to the challenge we face,â€™â€™ he said.
He said it was in recognition of the fact that the NNPC does not have a monopoly to the solutions that it was willing to carry all other stakeholders along in its drive to find a lasting antidote to the fuel nuisance.
â€œIn going into a deregulated environment the downstream sector must get its act together to face these issues. Deregulation itself is not likely to