THEWILL EDITORIAL: The $1.5bn Gamble On Port Harcourt Refinery

Refinery Caricature

BEVERLY HILLS, March 22, (THEWILL) – The Federal Government appears set for yet another wild goose chase as it seems to have failed to learn from the failures of the past. Little surprise, then, that condemnation has continued to trail its decision to continue pumping money into unprofitable ventures instead of focusing on areas of great need at a time the country is experiencing real paucity of funds.

The approval, last Wednesday, of a whopping $1.5 billion by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for yet another turn-around maintenance (TAM) of the moribund Port Harcourt Refinery is nothing more than a wild goose chase and a big gamble for that matter.

The decision to splash a whopping equivalent of N600 billion on a facility that stopped functioning almost two years ago can be anything but a wise one, especially at a time Nigerians are calling for the outright sale or privatisation of the nation’s three redundant refineries,

More disturbing is the fact that the same Port Harcourt Refinery, which stopped processing crude oil since April 2019, generated only N10.33 billion in five years and posted a loss of N229.14 billion within same period, according to NNPC report for 2015 – 2019. THEWILL then wonders about the wisdom in chasing shadows, thinking that the current TAM will work.

ALSO READ: FEC Approves $1.5bn For Port Harcourt Refinery Rehab, N3.70bn For Medical Equipment

Sadly, Nigeria has been depending largely on imported fuel for many years as the Port Harcourt Refinery shares the same predicaments and misfortunes with the Warri and Kaduna Refineries with their combined capacity remaining at just a paltry 445,000 barrels per day despite the huge sums allocated for their maintenance every year.

With a combined loss of N778.71 billion in five years and total generated revenue of a paltry N21.12 billion within same period, there can be no justification for further investment into the facilities that have clearly outlived their importance.

We also find the recent $1.5 billion approval for a facility that has already been listed for disposal by the Federal Government worrisome and suspicious as the Port Harcourt Refinery is one of the Federal Government properties listed for sale in order to fund the 2021 budget.

More so, the timeline for the latest TAM at Port Harcourt Refinery is fixed at 44 months, a period that definitely goes beyond the tenure of the present administration. The recent exercise is therefore bound to become another inconclusive project and might just be abandoned mid-way.

THEWILL therefore joins other well-meaning Nigerians, both individuals and corporates, in condemning the latest attempt to continue in the wasteful tradition on TAM for the nation’s moribund refineries. We want to also believe that TAM works in our refineries have become avenues for corruption.

We therefore call for a halt to this latest attempt as we implore the Federal Government to fast-track the privatisation process of the moribund refineries instead of wasting scarce resources on them. We believe that building new refineries and encouraging the ongoing efforts on modular refineries will benefit Nigerians more than the continuation of a wasteful tradition.

It is really sad and unfathomable that the Federal Government, with full knowledge of the potential in the almost-completed Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical Company, would want to continue sinking money into a wasteful venture as the Dangote Refinery would simply dwarf all the nation’s refineries once it takes off.