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Nigerians knock FG over Port Harcourt refinery’s promised operation in 2 weeks

On Thursday, March 13, Nigerians were again greeted with the news that the Port Harcourt Refinery would become operational in two weeks time.

The Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari made the revelation at an interactive session with the Senate.

He assured Nigerians that the delivery date of the Port Harcourt and other refineries remained sacrosanct.

According to the NNPC spokesperson, Olufemi Soneye, in a statement, Kyari said: “We will make sure that promises that we made about the rehabilitation of these refineries are kept. We completed the mechanical completion of PHRC in December.

“Now, we have crude oil already stocked in it. It is currently undergoing regulatory compliance tests before we re-stream it. I assure you that this refinery will start in next two weeks

“For the Warri Refinery, we have also done mechanical work on it. It is undergoing regulatory compliance processes that we are doing with our regulators. Kaduna will be ready by December this year, but we have not reached that stage. We believe that it will also be ready on schedule.”

Kyari noted that the Port Harcourt refinery had received 450,000 barrels of crude for processing since the mechanical completion of the plant in December last year.

He called for the cooperation of all stakeholders in the rehabilitation process, saying, “We are all serving this country dutifully and loyally. Nigerians must understand that gradually, we shall get this task done.”

The statement added that the Senate Ad-hoc Committee was expected to visit the three refineries in Kaduna, Warri, and Port Harcourt soon for an on-the-spot assessment of work progress.

Ordinarily, Nigerians should be rejoicing over the promise by the NNPC boss.

But, that is not the case. If anything, most Nigerians have been very angry over the news.

What should have been a cheery news turned out to have drawn the ire of most Nigerians, obviously because such promises have been made in the past without any positive result.

In fact, it has become a cliché to hear that the refinery, whether Port Harcourt, Warri or Kaduna, would work.

Since 2015, when the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) wrestled power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which held sway for 16 years, there have been promises of turnaround maintenance of the Port Harcourt Refinery and others and their eventual operation, but none has ever come to fruition.

So, when the NNPC released the statement on Thursday that the government was determined to end fuel importation and that the PH Refinery would begin operations in two weeks time, as an indication of the government’s preparedness to actually end fuel importation, most Nigerians took it with a pinch of salt.

Not many were excited, as most people expressed scepticism, considering the past promises.

There are various views about the development.

While some dismissed the news outright as another mere political talk, others said even though such promises never produced any positive outcome in the past, they were prepared to give the government the benefit of the doubt this time round.

One of the proponents of those pushing that Nigerians should give the government the benefit of the doubt this time round is the president of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima.

He said although he would like to remain optimistic this time round, he cannot blame those who don’t believe the government’s promise considering the previous promises about the same refinery, which ended with no positive result.

He told DAILY POST that, “The problem with the promise is just that we have a government that speaks from both sides of the mouth and previous promises have come and gone without fulfillment.

“So, even if this one is genuine, a lot of people will have a lot of doubts in their minds. But, I hope this will not be the same story because you cannot continue to say one thing today, and then tomorrow, you say another thing.

“Doing that will always put you on the defensive because you always want to say something, giving people hope without anything on ground to fulfil such promises.”

He advised the government to be honest and sincere with Nigerians, warning that deliberately lying to the people always would only provoke them to anger, which is not good for the society.

“The more you lie to the people about the refinery, the more you provoke people to anger.

“So, I am of the view that this time round, the government should try to live up to their promise.

“I am not part of those who don’t believe that things will work because I am always optimistic and I strongly believe that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. So, all they need to do is to reprogram themselves to be more sincere and honest to Nigerians,” he said.

He noted that the situation was so critical that the government just has to do everything possible to make sure that the refinery and other things work in the country.

He also advised that the leaders should not continue to give excuses because they knew exactly what the situation was before they went into office.

“We are in a critical period where people must have to understand that things are not okay and the government must also do something because they knew the problem before they took over the mantle of leadership.

“And to that extent, ours is to support them, and let them be honest to Nigerians, so that all of us will be able to survive this trying period,” he submitted.

For the president of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Pogu Bitrus, nothing would come out of the promise.

He believes that the Nigerian attitude has not changed, and would not want Nigerians to build any hope around the promise to avoid suffering unnecessary heartache.

“We do propaganda with everything. We politicise everything. The President doesn’t have to tell us that the Port Harcourt Refinery is on course when it is not fully on course.

“Let this government start to do things differently. When things are not right, rather than getting political capital by telling lies to Nigerians, they should come out to tell Nigerians the true situation of things,” he said in an interview with DAILY POST.

Continuing, he said: “There is no point in deceiving the populace. Let them tell the truth and they will better be appreciated, rather than thinking that by telling lies, they are playing politics.

“They are instead dishonouring themselves, and Nigerians will lose confidence in them very soon.”

He noted that the right thing would have been for the government to accept that the earlier promise could not be fulfilled due to one reason or the other, and that they are trying to make things right.

“So, they have said things and the things are not what they said; we are praying that they will correct their mistakes and say ‘we are sorry; we were deceived you; we said the wrong things and this is the correct stage of the Port Harcourt Refinery, and hopefully we are working on it and it is going to work.’ I think that is a better way of doing things,” he stated.

Also speaking, a legal practitioner and public commentator, IK Onodi did not believe that the refinery would become operational in two weeks time.

He said such promises had been made in the past and none came to fruition, and because of that he would not believe anybody until he has seen that the refinery has actually started refining.

According to him: “It is said that action speaks louder than words. We were told last year when the Dangote Refinery was commissioned that it would start producing by July last year.

“From July last year till now is about nine months, and no drop of crude oil has been refined by the Dangote Refinery.

“We have been told times without numbers that the Port Harcourt Refinery and other refineries would come on stream very soon.

“If I were the government, I will not announce anything until the refinery starts producing and when that happens, I will tell Nigerians that this is from the PH or Warri or Kaduna Refineries. I do not believe until I see it.”

For an industrialist, Anthony Obidulu, the refinery would not work in two weeks as promised by the NNPC.

He noted that the refinery has become a cancer unto the Nigerians society and declared that if given opportunity, he would sell it for $1.

“Nothing will come out of the promise. It will go the way of previous promises about the refinery.

“Remember that during Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, the same Port Harcourt Refinery was sold to Mike Otedola and Aliko Dangote, but the money was later returned to them.

“And since that money was returned to Otedola and Dangote, the refinery has not returned to operation; it has been promises upon promises. It has become a cancer to the Nigeria society.

“I am tired of the politics of that refinery and it should just go. Politicians have used it to play politics since the Obasanjo era.

“What is refinery anyway? What is the big deal in building a refinery? Since 1999 when democratic governance returned till now, we could have built more than four refineries if we are serious.

“For almost 25 years, we have been playing politics with the refinery; let it go,” he told DAILY POST.