By Michael Eboh & Ifeoluwa Mic-Braimoh

ABUJA— The Federal Government, yesterday, stated that the management of the country’s refineries would remain within the purview of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, irrespective of whatever model the government adopts to revamp and upgrade them

Speaking at the 2017 National Conference of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, in Abuja, Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, also stated that the new National Gas Policy had been approved by the Federal Executive Council after the presentation of the memo to the council.

Osinbajo, who was represented by Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, reiterated that there was no attempt, neither was there any approval to concession or sell the refineries.

He added that what the Federal Government had approved was to bring in a financing mechanism that would enable the country finance, develop and upgrade the refineries.

NNPC

He said:  “Nothing in the equation of what we are trying to do is taking away the management of the refineries from the NNPC, or taking NNPC away from the management.

“However, we need to bring in funds, we need to bring in best practices; we need to bring these institutions to work at the level where they are important for this country, otherwise we would be losing money.”

Osinbajo also warned that in their present epileptic performance levels, the refineries would become obsolete over the next three, four years, unless something is done urgently.

He said, “The reality is that we want the private sector players to begin to build their own refineries. Whatever it is we are protecting would disappear. Unless we begin to move very rapidly and very quickly to position these refineries in such a way that they can compete, we would lose the refineries completely, together with all the job skills that exist in those areas.”

Osinbajo lamented that the whole idea of continuing to import petroleum products in this country was a shame, adding that all efforts should be made to fight anything that prevents the country from stopping fuel import, as according to him, once this happens, it is going to open a new vista of opportunities.

He said the new National Gas Policy recently approved by the Federal Executive Council, would help the country tap into the opportunity of boosting its revenue streams with income from oil and gas.

“Unless we can build the twin engine of earnings between petroleum and gas, we are not likely to see an improvement in our economy or see opportunities that a lot of you are beginning to miss in terms of job opportunities in the oil sector,” he noted.

“What are the new horizons for opportunities? Gas, obviously, is item one. There is so much happening that needs to happen; that should have happened yesterday, and must begin to happen now in the gas field. Gas is a future for this country. Whether it is investment that you play in; whether it is support in terms of staff retooling and retraining that you play, whether it is providing infrastructure that you play in; gas is the place to be; and we need to begin to look at that,” Osinbajo added.

The Acting president bemoaned the fact that the country’s policies in the petroleum sector were not moving as fast as they should to catch up with changing times, a factor that had put immense pressure on policy makers.

He said, “There is a sheer amount of work that is unbelievable in the sector. Those of us who are privileged for the time being to sit in areas where you influence policies have come to work extremely hard to catch up with that speed and to help drive the sea of change that is imperative if this sector would survive.”

Osinbajo further advised members of the association to transit from focusing solely on issues of staff welfare to issues of staff investment in the sector, whereby their members participate in the value chains of the petroleum industry as entrepreneurs, tap from opportunities and serve as drivers of ideas in the sector.

He said also that the present oil that has remained the main stay of the nation’s economy might not last beyond 39 years.

He lamented that Nigeria remained the only oil producing country still struggling with the importation of refined petroleum products, stressing that the nation’s future laid in gas which reserves would last for over 60 years.

Also speaking, President of PENGASSAN, Mr. Francis Johnson, said the association is ready to participate in decisions and issues concerning the refineries, adding that it awaits coming of the investors in the three refineries, the Federal should ensure the immediate rehabilitation of obsolete equipments in the refineries, as it   would also put an end to importation of petroleum products.

He also frowned at oil companies’ flagrant disobedience to tripartite agreement reached and the directives of the Ministers of Labour and Employment and Petroleum Resources to ensure security of jobs.

“We take this as an affront on constituted authority in the country. We call on management of oil and gas companies to respect the laws of the land as well as constituted authorities in Nigeria,” he warned.

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