By Yemie Adeoye & Oscarline Onwuemenyi
The government of Akwa State have made a vigorous case for the relocation of the proposed Lekki Greenfield Refinery to its planned free trade and industrial zone at Ibaka area of Akwa Ibom state.
The appeal for the relocation was made by the Governor of Akwa Ibom state Dr. Godswill Akpabio, during the ground-breaking ceremony for the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN) Joint Venture Power Project, in the state.
Akpabio, who was represented by his deputy, Engr. Patrick Epkotu, stressed that that it was only economically viable to locate the refinery in the area where it would be close to abundant raw materials in the region.
He said, â€œI understand the Federal Government is currently in discussions with some investors to establish a refinery in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, but we would like those involved in the discussions to reconsider the location.
â€œWe invite them to come here, at Ibaka, where we are building one of the biggest industrial zones in the country, and where the refinery would have proximity to the resources it would need to run profitably.â€
He noted that the state was ready to welcome such a major investment, and would provide land for the project to be located in the planned Ibaka Industrial Zone.
Akpabio further argued that the state was peaceful and hospitable, insisting that it was not economically sensible to locate such a project far from the source of the raw materials.
Earlier on, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Development, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, has charged major players in the petroleum industry to consider investments in the refining of crude oil to meet with governmentâ€™s objective for full deregulation of the downstream sector.
Barkindo had noted that when completed, the proposed Lekki Greenfield Refinery would be the first new refinery to be built in Nigeria in over 20 years.
He said preliminary market assessments suggest that there is room for only two new 200,000 to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) refineries in Nigeria over the next seven years.
He added, â€œWith just one new refinery, we should be able to stem the flood of imports into the country, save an estimated national import bill in excess of $10 billion, and create the much needed employment for Nigerians.
â€œIt will also be the first refinery that would be integrated with an Industrial Hydrocarbon Park , which will be designed to convert natural gas and refined petroleum products into hydrocarbon derivatives.â€
The Greenfield Refinery to be located within the 16,000 hectare Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos, upon completion in the next four years, has an initial projected production capacity of 2,400 bpd and overall capacity of 3,600 bpd.
â€œFor us at the NNPC, these are historic times in our corporate development. As we sojourn on the path of corporate transformation, we eagerly await both the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the full deregulation of the downstream sector,â€ Barkindo added.
The NNPC GMD explained that the corporationâ€™s approach to capital investments â€œwill be based on an open, transparent process that will be intrinsically inclusive and will strive to partner with all bonafide investors who desire to contribute meaningfully to the development of the Nigerian oil industry.â€
Dr. Barkindo assured of the readiness of the Corporation to work out modalities on the establishment of the Refinery adding that in the spirit of the Federal Government amnesty to the former militants in the Niger Delta region the corporation was committed to addressing issues confronting the area.
The NNPC GMD commended the neighbouring communities for their cooperation and support and implored them to continue to provide conducive atmosphere that would support the timely delivery of the project.