It may be the hallelujah song for Nigerians if the NNPC gets it act together to rehabilitate the state owned refineries and end the overindulgence in fuel importation in the magical year 2019. It would no longer be in our dreams as some gave up on what this administration inherited three years ago when issues of the four refineries were in abeyance with operators and policy makers not closing ranks on who does what.
The bickering got to a head in December 2016, when the NNPC rose from an AGM announcing the plan for a comprehensive rehabilitation programme in 2017. The NNPC had painted a situation of having three cars in one’s garage that have not been maintained for 15 to 20 years while expecting optimal performance from them. Changing one fuel pump here, one compressor there is not helpful, proposing a holistic approach for full rehabilitation of the refineries.
The Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the same breath and almost in a counter told members of the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum (Upstream) led by the Chairman Hon. Victor Nwokolo who had oversight visit to the Ministry that for the purpose of efficient management of the refineries, the Federal Government will no longer invest in the repairs of the country’s refineries, and would also not concession or privatise the refineries. Rather, prospective private investors will bring in their money, and take part in managing the refineries and from there recoup their investments.
Nigerians waited endlessly in 2017 without the refineries rehabilitation and without hopes for investors bringing in their money for the ailing refineries and later taking part in managing the refineries and from there recoup their investment. The scenarios made watchers confused and equally think they are deliberate moves to let go the refineries against an endless sloganeering to have the refineries back to full capacity and meet the government’s target of ending importation of petrol in 18 months.
In the twilight of this administration, officials woke up with a ginger of political will to rehabilitate the four refineries in Port Harcourt (2), Warri and Kaduna. This must be commended. It is the same refineries some have consistently claimed are old and beyond redemption. There are many older brownfield refineries we know that have undergone rehabilitation, with some also upgraded. Are we equally upgrading? We have always pointed out that Nigeria must have functional refineries to compete in global development race including diversification.
Our quest for development and the role refineries could play for Nigeria to become an emerging economic nation rather than a Third World nation is what some public officers have not comprehended. With over 6000 investment opportunities, there is no mineral like petroleum on earth. That is why for over a century of oil discovery nations go to war (including proxy wars). Petroleum is an instrument of politics, strategy and tact. With 80 percent of its use in the fuels the craze for renewable energy is not just for climate concerns; but for the fact that few countries have the privilege of possessing oil. Technology is now being marketed to us as renewable energy to do away with fossil fuels including oil.
Net imports of oil accounts for nearly half of the United States trade deficits. Of the 30 countries with proven oil reserves which Nigeria are number 11, only US and Canada in the Group of Seven, G7 industrial nations have oil. The G7 members own 249 refineries ie. 33.4 percent of the 745 global functional refineries including Canada (29), France (13), Germany (14), Italy (16), Japan (29), UK (9) and US (139). When extended to the number of refineries the G20 own, we are counting in the range of 85 to 90 percent.
The NNPC Group Managing Director, Dr. Maikanti Baru’s pledge is to focus on the rehabilitation of the refineries to ensure a restoration to nameplate capacities by 2019 when the country is expected to end the importation of petroleum products. The privileged NNPC officials in the eight committees constituted on rehabilitation including workstations for rehabilitation, stakeholder management, financing, legal, procurement, pipeline, crude oil supply and security, and staffing and succession planning should not be amorphous otherwise they would be confined in perpetuity to the history of failed generation.
To Baru, it has been the perception of the public that the repairs of the refineries are never done. Baru should be told to be a man of his word to alter that public perception. Adequate planning and hard work are the recipes for success in this refineries endeavour. He should be on the watch for somebody or something as a protective measure to exert control as wrong ingredients and instructions are disasters for Nigeria. Negotiations and agreements for the refineries rehabilitation financiers should be done transparently, patriotically and in good faith. It is sad commentary that Nigeria has for about a quarter of a century imported petroleum products only for public officers’ in charge to taunt us with elegies of Lamentations.