The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, has said he is holding the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) accountable for the scheduled deadlines for the completion of the rehabilitation of the country’s refineries.
Senator Lokpobiri disclosed this at the weekend while fielding questions from State House correspondents at the end of the three-day retreat at the State House Conference Center, Abuja.
Recall that the NNPCL is saddled with the responsibility to rehabilitate three refineries in the country to reduce fuel scarcity and increase dependence on natural gas
Despite spending over $25 billion on fixing the refineries in the past 10 years, they were producing at less than 30% capacity, according to a report by the 9th National Assembly.
The report had called for a forensic audit of the matter and recommended that the Warri and Port Harcourt refineries be rehabilitated and that the Kaduna refinery should also be subject to such treatment.
The Senate has constituted an ad-hoc committee to investigate the NNPCL over the N11.35 trillion spent on the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries. The committee was meant to interrogate the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), NNPCL, and the Bureau of Public Enterprises on the best approach to commercializing and ensuring the profitability of the state-owned refineries.
Fielding questions on when the rehabilitation of the refineries will be completed, Lokpobiri said: “Yes, the rehabilitation of the refineries if you could remember, was started by the previous administration and as part of the President’s directive, I have gone round all the refineries and from what they have briefed me, Port Harcourt has 3 phases, so Phase 1 will be ready by the end of this year. I am not the one who is directly in charge of rehabilitation, it is the NNPCL and they have told me and I am holding them accountable.
“For Warri refinery, they said Phase 1 will be ready by the end of the year. Phase 2 and 3 in Port Harcourt will be ready next year and the whole of Kaduna refinery will be ready by the end of next year. That is what they said and I am holding them accountable to their own words.
“I will be going there in the next few weeks, I go there regularly and sometimes without a schedule so that nobody plans for me. I just appear to see what is going on.
“I believe that those refineries if we can achieve some level of rehabilitation by the end of this year will also improve our domestic refining capacity. But that is not even the problem, the Dangote refinery is coming.
“We have a lot of modular refineries that we have given licenses but the challenge has been the feedstock. Even if you have the modular refinery do you have the crude to be able to refine?
“That’s why I said unless we produce sufficient quantity, even if the refineries are rehabilitated there will be no feedstock. So my challenge is to ramp up production so that we can see how we can feed not only the big refineries but also the modular refineries, these are the real employers of Labour and they will do the magic.
“What I have done is to also liberalise the process to acquire licenses. Before I came they said sometimes it takes so long to acquire licenses, so I said I don’t want to know your face provided the requirements are met, bring them to me I will sign within 24 hours and I have signed them.
“I have also said I don’t want to give people licenses and they use it as souvenirs, if you are given a license you must use it within the terms or else I will cancel it. Just like I didn’t know you before signing the license, I will also cancel without blinking an eye.”
The minister said the easiest way to get out of the country’s fuel crisis is to increase production, saying “If we don’t the midstream and downstream will also fail. We must produce the crude to refine before distribution.
“But our problem right now which we inherited is the low level of production which was a result of insecurity issues, lack of investments and all other concerns. But we are addressing all those issues and I believe that in the next few months, we will be able to come up with a different report.
“But we have addressed the issue of insecurity, we have rekindled the confidence of international oil companies to come back and begin to reinvest. We are addressing some of the issues they have raised with us which has to do with both fiscal and regulatory and so on.
“So I believe that as a ministry we have set some very ambitious numbers for ourselves that before the end of the year, we should be doing at least close to 2 million barrels per day.”