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Osinbajo clears controversies, outlines FG’s plans for refineries

Osinbajo clears controversies, outlines FG's plans for refineries

Nigeria’s Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, has seemingly settled all controversies around the fate of the countries refineries.

The acting president on Wednesday declared that the federal government has no plans to concession or sell any of the refineries.

There have been issues around whether, and how the government plans to concession the refineries, after the minister of state for petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu gave indications to that effect.

Not long after, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Oando Plc, Mr. Wale Tinubu, had disclosed that his firm, along with Nigeria Agip Oil had been selected to take over the Port Harcourt refinery, thus raising questions about the transparency of the selection process and the overall transaction.

Confusion soon followed the reported concession of the Port Harcourt refinery as the Presidency denied knowledge of such a process.

The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) under the Presidency in a reply to enquiries by Keyamo Chambers, stated that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation never approached it “on any plan to grant a concession of the said refinery or any other arrangement with any private company for the repair, operation and maintenance of the said refinery”.

Director General of the ICRC, Amino Diko who signed the letter, further stated that the Commission only read about the proposed transaction in a newspaper.

Read also: OSINBAJO: How FG plans to address agitations for secession

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) had also expressed ignorance of the proposed rehabilitation and operation under a concession arrangement of the 210,000 barrels per day (bpd) Port Harcourt Refinery by the two oil firms.

But Osinbajo, speaking at the 2017 National Conference of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, (PENGASSAN) stated that the management of Nigeria’s refineries would remain within the purview of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Represented by Kachikwu at the event, Osinbajo explained, that this is irrespective of whatever model government decides to adopt in efforts to revamp and upgrade them.

According to him, at no time did government grant any approval to concession or sell the refineries.

“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”, he said.

While disclosing that the new National Gas Policy had been approved by the Federal Executive Council after the presentation of the memo, 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.

“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”, he said.

The acting president described the practice of importing petroleum products into Nigeria as shameful, adding that all efforts should be made to fight anything that prevents the country from stopping fuel import.

“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”.

“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 stated.

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.”

He also advised members of PENGASSAN to transit from focusing solely on issues of staff welfare to issues of staff investment in the sector, so that their members can 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, lamenting, 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 while it awaits the coming of the investors in the three refineries, government should ensure the immediate rehabilitation of obsolete equipments in the refineries, as it would also put an end to importation of petroleum products.

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