…Probes FG over $15bn contract to both firms
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA — The Senate has suspended the planned concession of Port Harcourt refinery to Agip and Oando by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
It also resolved to constitute a seven-member ad-hoc committee to probe the concession.
Members of the committee, which has Senator Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno North) as Chairman, include Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu (APC, Imo North) as Vice Chairman, while Senators Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West); Duro Faseyi (PDP, Ekiti North); Sabo Mohammed (APC, Jigawa South); Aliyu Wammako (APC, Sokoto North) and Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) are members.
The upper legislative chamber took the decisions after considering a motion sponsored by Senator Sabo Mohammed, who represents Jigawa South senatorial district.
Mohammed said: “The Federal Government recently entered into an agreement with Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC, a subsidiary of ENI, an Italian oil giant to construct a $15 billion refinery in the Niger Delta, a deal which also includes investment by Agip in a power plant with the Italian company assisting Nigeria in the repairs of the Port Harcourt refinery.
“The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources stated that the agreement was part of a broader Federal Government plan to increase capacity for local production and consumption of petroleum products with the aim of ending fuel importation in Nigeria by 2019.
“While the resolve by the Federal Government to increase local refining capacity is laudable and should be applauded by all Nigerians, the observance of corporate governance principles and the country’s extant laws must be followed to the letter.”
The senator said that it was not also clear when Oando became part of the deal, noting that “the confusion became obvious, following the disclosure on May 11, 2017, by the chief executive officer of Oando Plc on the floor of the Nigeria Stock Exchange that the group had received approval of the Federal Government to repair, operate and maintain the Port Harcourt Refinery Company with their partner Agip.
“This development would have been wonderful because it would mean an end to importation of refined products by the year 2020, but many questions are begging for answers, such as: is it Agip/ENI or Oando Plc that is taking over Port Harcourt Refinery?
“Was there the observance of the privatisation law as regards due diligence, selection from preferred bidders before ceding of the Port Harcourt Refinery to Agip/Oando?”
In his contribution, Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West, urged the Senate to rise and stop another massive corruption that was about to take place in the refinery, alluding to the power sector which was sold to the private sector without electricity.
Also contributing, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC Kano South), condemned the Federal Government’s planned action on the refinery but advised that it was better to build new refineries than taking away the Port Harcourt Refinery as in the case of Warri and Kaduna that had not been functioning for years.
Senators adopted the motion after it was put to a voice vote by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
It would be recalled that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, had said that repair of refineries could not be done in an open bidding process.
The Minister, who spoke in Vienna, Austria at the 172nd OPEC meeting, had said refineries concession “is a highly technical area, what we have done is to invite those who have experience in refining, but it’s open, anybody who feels he has the skills and has the money is welcome. It is not just about the skills but the money too.’’