‘The non-functioning of Nigeria’s three big refineries with billions of dollars injected into them yearly for turn-around maintenance is suspicious; even with the president as petroleum minister’
By Valentine Amanze
Nigerian leaders will not stop amusing me with their little or no knowledge of the economy.
I feel sad on the decay in governance and the management of our collective resources. This is, perhaps, to the detriment of the unborn generation.
I always ask: “Who are the president’s economy/ economic advisers? Do they understand the dynamics of modern economy?”
If they exist, what have they done to correct the blunder President Bola Tinubu committed via fuel subsidy removal on May 29, 2023?
The fiat with which the government removed the subsidy and the sharing of N2 billion to state governors to cushion its effect still baffles me – a decision, which has crippled the nation’s economy and created a high level of poverty.
I blame the former President Muhammadu Buhari for the shananigans on the the nation’s petro-economy.
On May 21, 2023, while in office, Buhari inaugurated a yet to be completed Dangote Petroleum Refinery in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, which he said, would enable Nigeria achieve self-sufficiency in refined products and even have surplus for export.
At the occasion, attended by Heads of State from Ghana, Togo, Niger, Senegal and a representative of the President of Chad, Buhari described the feat as a significant milestone for Nigeria’s economy and a gamechanger for the downstream petroleum products market in the entire Africa. He however failed to mention how he ran Nigeria’s refineries aground in the last eight years.
His words: “This mega industry we are commissioning today is a clear example of what can be achieved when entrepreneurs are encouraged and supported and when an enabling environment is created for investments and for businesses to thrive.
“I am confident that my successor, His Excellency Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will sustain the improvement in our economic and business environment and strengthen the framework of our public private partnership policies to accelerate the pace of our economic growth and development.
“I am happy to leave our economy in very competent hands.”
Four months after, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and his refinery are yet to begin production, while Tinubu is still battling for political relevance; and not providing solution to the ailing economy.
Buhari’s speech was an acknowledgement of failure as a president and at the sametime petroleum minister. He held both portfolios for eight years without building new refinaries or making the existing ones functional. It is a shame that what Buhari failed to do in eight years he espects an individual, Aliko Dangote, to do it free for him and the country. It is stupid of the government to plan its economy on private individual’s pocket.
Dangote is an investor, whose objective is to make profit. He is not a Father Christmas, who would produce at 50 kobo per lire and sell at 30 kobo. The essence of business is to make profit.
Buhari refused to acknowledge this even though Nigeria government has 20 percent stake in the Dangote Refinary.
Prior to Dangote’s venture into the oil business, Nigerian government had refineries in Port Hacourt, Warri and Kaduna.
The non-functioning of Nigeria’s three big refineries with billions of dollars injected into them yearly for turn-around maintenance is suspicious; even with the president as petroleum minister.
The Chairman /CEO of the International Energy Services Limited (IESL), Dr. Diran Fawibe, had disclosed that Nigeria awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refinery for $1.5 billion; Kaduna and Warri refineries at $1.2 billion, bringing the rehabilitation to about $2.7 billion.
Again, President Bola Tinubu, like his predecessor, Buhari, promised Nigerians that the Port Harcourt refinery would be functional in December 2023, without further information.
Trusting the present leadership in the country has become an issue based on circumstances surrounding its emergence and antecedents.
It is inexplanable that in 2023, Nigeria, which exports crude oil, is still importing refined petroleum products even with three state-owned refinaries.
Hoping on the Dangote Group’s 650,000 barrels per day refinery to flood Nigeria market with cheap petroleum products is an illusion.
Reasons: The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), with 20 percent share in Dangote Refinery, is not going to supply crude oil free of charge to Dangote Group.
Again, crude oil is sold in dollars and not local currency – Naira. So Dangote will sell in dollar irrespective of the current exchange rate.
The Executive Director of the Dangote Group, Devakumar Edwin, confirmed it to S&P Global Platts, recently.
He said that Nigerian oil would be purchased in U.S. dollars, not naira as some reports had suggested, because it is located in a free zone on the outskirts of Lagos.
Besides, Dangote’s aggressiveness in business has never favoured Nigerians eventhough he offers few employements.
For instance, the company’s venturing into cement business forced the price out of hand. Today, a bag of cement goes for N5, 500 from N1,500, depending on the location, after his alleged frustration of other competitors like BUA, Ibeto and Madewell cements.
Therefore it will be suicidal hoping on Dangote refineries to slash pump price of petrol.
Nigerian government, whether under Tinubu or any other person, must revive the country’s sick refineries or build new ones.
It is unacceptable that Nigeria cannot afford one good refinery.
If the country is serious, this is the time to probe why the three state-owned refinaries remain comatose.
Besides, Buhari must be invited by the National Assembly to account for the state of the refinaries and the amount pumped into their repairs.
Tinubu, who has taken over the ministry, just like his predecessor, must hands off for accountability sake.
Also, Dangote cannot be a gamechanger when he is working for himself and not the country.
The game changer will be the government that revives the nation’s refinaries or builds new ones.