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Sylvia’s avowal on P/Harcourt Refinery

On 18th December 2019, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, briefed the State House Correspondents as regards the country’s petroleum industry immediately after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, which was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Sylva boldly informed that the long-awaited rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refinery would commence in earnest by January 2020 without further ado.

He further stated that under his watch, out of the “nine mandates” given to his ministry, they had been able to meaningfully actualised at least one, which was the successful passage of the Deep Offshore Amendment Act.

He equally boasted that work was seriously ongoing to ensure the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), and hopefully, it would be passed into law by June this year.

Even an imbecile in Nigeria can boldly attest to the lingering fact that the country’s major and highest revenue base – the petroleum sector – has over the decades been clamouring for rescue as its pathetic situation lingers.

This perhaps could be what informed the ongoing seeming efforts of the present administration led by President Buhari towards ensuring that the said sector wears a new look in all ramifications, hence probably understood that only a tech-driven mechanism can fix the unending mayhem.

In his keynote address during the first-ever Nigeria Diaspora Investment Summit, which held in Abuja between 27 and 29 November, 2018, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo graciously notified the participants that the first set of the privately-owned modular refineries “being developed as part of the private-sector component of the vision” were currently being completed in Delta and Rivers states.

The number two citizen said that “one of them is a Brownfield Project that is being expanded from 1,000 barrels per day (bpd) capacity to 10,000 bpd, while the other is a Greenfield Investment”, as he further disclosed “aAs at yesterday, another of such modular refinery was coming on stream.”

The three-day summit, which sought to mobilize the Diaspora to invest in Nigeria as part of the current government’s thrive to reposition the national economy, equally saw the vice president informing the prospective investors that in each of the efforts, the communities were equity holders and stakeholders in the modular refineries.

According to him, such a gesture was crucial as the government was ensuring that the various communities were economic stakeholders in the development and economic opportunities in the Niger Delta in its quest for a rebranded oil and gas sector.

Osinbajo reminded that: “For those who may recall some of the engagements we had with the Niger Delta, we promised we would ensure we are able to put in place some of the modular refineries that are actively engaged with the local communities.”

It suffices to assert that the remarkable event, which ensured that the diaspora investors have the opportunity to meet potential local partners as well as interact with government institutions, came to an end with wonderful notices and assurances to the people’s delight.         

It’s only a dummy that’s yet to comprehend that the bane of the Nigeria’s petroleum sector has conspicuously been lack of refineries and allied matters. It’s a shame, to assert the least, that the world’s six most oil producing country cannot at the moment boast of a single refinery in any part across the federation.

In the past, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) could proudly boast of at least three standard world-class refineries situated in different localities namely: Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna in Rivers, Delta and Kaduna states, respectively. But it’s pathetic that presently these investments are mere monuments, and nothing more.

It is ridiculous and absurd that, rather than export petroleum products to other countries, Nigeria is deeply involved in their importation. When the crude oil is extracted from the earth crust, they are transported to foreign nations, thereby refining them over there.

Having made the raw materials available for consumption, the oil marketers who have been contracted or licensed by the Federal Government (FG) would import the finished products towards distributing them among the dealers domiciled in the country. Then the dealers would ensure the commodities are sold to the final consumers. This recurring decimal is what the citizens have been experiencing herein ever since the country’s refineries went into moribund.

This unfortunate occurrence was apparently what triggered the quest for total removal of fuel subsidy in the country by the Buhari-led reign on its emergence in 2015. Having perceived the oil subsidy as an avenue to ‘unfairly’ enriched the marketers who were seen as racketeers, the government was damn determined to completely stop the payment of subsidy on petrol otherwise known as Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).

It’s noteworthy that the government’s quest for total removal of fuel subsidy was primarily informed by its motive to ensure that the downstream sector was thoroughly revived and boosted. But till date, despite all the earlier promises to resuscitate the incapacitated refineries, none is currently wearing a new look. This seeming inaction has signalled a great worry to the concerned citizenry.

It was, however, barely recently that Nigerians realized that the subsidy, contrary to the initial report, wasn’t actually totally removed. This implies some intriguing politics had been taking place underground without the knowledge of the masses. This smacks of pranks.

Taking a painstaking study of the Nigeria’s worrying situation as regards the oil and gas industry, it is only until the government addresses the unwholesome policies therein, the country can boast of a reputable tech-driven economy in respect of the sector in question.

Even as the government is frantically carrying out crusade on random establishment of modular refineries alongside rehabilitation of moribund refineries, its sustenance will definitely meet a downfall if it fails to critically consider and implement a set of strict required policies that would guarantee the healthy functionality of the initiative.

Aside the sustenance aspect, failure to set up adequate modus operandi would pose a great threat to further establishment of such refineries in the nearest future. Suffice it to say that such practice might be hijacked by unscrupulous and unpatriotic elements.

This, therefore, is the reason the PIB being considered by the ninth Assembly needs to be further reviewed with a view to amending it where need be. And if passed, its considerations must equally be taken as serious by the Executive if it’s really and genuinely willing to revamp the downstream sector.

It’s even devastating that till this moment, none of those modular refineries as was earlier reported has been duly completed, or at least gotten to a completion stage. At this time, Nigerians should expect news regarding commencement of operation in any of the modular refineries.

More so, the government must equally not hesitate to do the needful towards reviving the other forgotten petroleum refineries situated in other part of the country. This ought to be the key mandates of the Buhari’s “Next Level” agenda.

Summarily, a lofty tech-driven concept requires a candid political will for apt plan and implementation. And if eventually implemented, sound relevant policies are needed for its onward sustenance.

So, as the citizenry eagerly await Sylva and his team to deliver on this promise, they equally expect the Presidency to showcase projects that are devoid of pranks. Think about it!