Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, recently told a bewildered nation that two of the nation’s four refineries are still non-operational. Dr. Kachikwu didn’t offer Nigerians the simple truth about the two facilities that are incapacitated. But he was quick to say they will be rehabilitated before the year ends in order to ensure free flow of petroleum products.
The under minister spoke at an interactive session with members of the National Assembly in Abuja recently, he said that the current state of the refineries from available reports indicate that two of the refineries may be re-streamed before the end of December, this year. Speaking in a presentation titled, “The Roadmap for Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Sector”, the Minister noted that the average national oil production as at July this year stood at 2.1 million barrels per day with Nigerian petroleum development company, NPDC, a wholly owned, NNPC subsidiary accounting for 99,000 barrels per day. Others are under joint venture arrangement. He also announced that efforts were been made to engage private investors to build new refineries within the old ones so that they could co- locate and share infrastructure and other resources.
He spoke on far reaching policy drive aimed for the oil sector. Fine talk and good policy ideas, but indeed there is nothing new or outrageous coming from the oil czar himself that has not been said before by previous oil captains, be it from the corporation and government side, except that Kachikwu failed to mention how his management and the Federal Government hope to put an end to the perennial fuel scarcity with new ideas different from the old pattern and tall promises.
That is the only soothing balm that can calm the people at this time of the change mantra- philosophy of both the government and the NNPC. Definitely it is the miracle which can rekindle Nigerian’s hope, build their confidence about the real transformation envisaged of the Buhari’s administration. Nigerians have heard of oil production output figures, times without number the same way the dazed people are in tune with such narrative and phrase as “efforts to bring in private investors to build new refineries whether in new location or building new ones within the old brigades are in top gear.” We hear these talks and decipher as age long and commonplace cliché’ aimed more or less at deceiving the masses.
What the people require now and forever is availability of products, PMS, AGO, GPK (kerosene). Government should fashion practical ways of doing this. Apart from the fact that it has lost ideas towards chatting a new course to solving the unending fuel crisis, then the old treatise and old-fashioned ways no longer tickle the fancy of Nigerians that they could buy petroleum products at their disposal in the moments to come in this administration’s tenure.
We are perturbed than ever before that among the more than 40 countries on the face of the earth endowed with crude oil, there is none that does not have its refineries. While Venezuela, a country the size of Lagos State in Nigeria and the ninth largest exporter of crude in the world, has 22 refineries, Nigeria, a nation of 160 million people and the sixth largest exporter of crude in the world, has four old refineries, with two operating barely optimally, according to NNPC boss and petroleum under- minister.
Recall that before the inauguration of the current political dispensation on May 29, 1999, all the four refineries were operating at 32 per cent capacity. Yet, the Federal Government was allocating 445,000 barrels per day of crude oil to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. By 2003, the Federal Government granted licences to four companies to commence “immediate” construction of private refineries in Nigeria. Eighteen companies were earlier in 2001 licensed to construct their refineries. However, it was those four, which had completed detailed engineering work on the proposed refineries that were asked to start construction in 2003. But none of the companies has commenced any construction work on their sites. Only Dangote Group, which details and efforts are still sketchy to Nigerians appears to be the only one standing.
Nevertheless, it is undoubted that the combined output of petrol also known as PMS, presently from the four existing refineries still fall short of the total national demand put at over 32 million litres a day. The government has attempted to meet the shortfall by importing fuel, which is now fraught with fraud of monumental proportion. Moreover, one way to eliminate waste and reduce corrupt practices is to further liberalise the sector and allow private sector investors to invest and build refineries. This is the only antidote to curbing fuel importation sleaze and making products available round the year.
We thereby urge the Buhari administration to put in the necessary frameworks, either through legislation and robust government policies that will encourage and quicken the heels of serious minded businessmen and women and not the portfolio-carrying category that invaded the fuel importation scheme because of racketeering and quick-fix profits. It is also time to talk less about pains that do not translate to anything new, like product accessibility. Enough of talk, it is time to work.
We expect to see Dr. Kachikwu to take media men on facility tours of new refineries built simultaneously across the geopolitical zones of the country, instead of speaking petroleum vocabularies and technicalities. That is our expectation and desire and the time for such action is now!

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