Editorial

June 21, 2024

Confronting the oil mafia

Crude oil

Chairman of the Dangote Refinery, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, recently disclosed how offshore “oil mafia” nearly grounded his effort to build the largest single-train refinery in Nigeria.

According to him, these faceless groups strived to push his company into debt default which could have reduced the venture to the situation of Ajaokuta Steel, but for the able support of some local and foreign banks. The refinery also appears to be having a difficult time getting adequate crude supply.

Dangote, in a recent interview, claimed that the oil mafia trying to stop his company from refining petroleum products are “stronger than the drug mafia”. The Crude Oil Refinery Owners Association of Nigeria, CORAN, the umbrella body of operators of the many upstart modular refineries, has also issued a statement affirming that they had repeatedly complained of difficulty in sourcing crude oil but have not received any positive feedback.

These complaints are worrisome. Nigeria is the largest crude oil producer in Africa and the world’s sixth largest exporter as OPEC member. Long ago, when our government-owned refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna were producing at full capacity, we were self-sufficient in refined products. However, due to incompetence, corruption and the activities of the so-called oil mafias, Nigeria became a net importer of these products.

As the price of crude oil soared and government sought to stop oil subsidies, Organised Labour gave the restoration of our refineries and building of new ones as one of their conditions to accept subsidy removal.

The completion of Dangote Refinery and the coming on-stream of several modular refineries were warmly welcomed by Nigerians who are still reeling from extreme energy costs. Coming at a time subsidy removal has almost crippled industrial productivity, Nigerians looked forward to a return to better times when we would no longer need to import petroleum products.

These complaints of oil mafia sabotages become even more bewildering with President Bola Tinubu, the Commander-in-Chief also doubling as the Minister of Petroleum Resources. The job of ending oil thievery and crushing the oil mafia to enable Nigerians to once again enjoy affordable home-refined products belongs squarely with the president.

What could possibly be responsible for the lack of response that the refinery owners have complained of? What is the sense in licensing investors to build modular refineries and failing to ensure they are able to do their business?

Dangote and other local refiners have promised that petroleum product prices would drastically reduce when they are fully operational. We call on the president to act fast and ensure adequate supply of crude oil and protection of our refiners from the activities of saboteurs. Our economic recovery prospect hinges strongly on local oil refining.

Crush the oil mafia today!