By Adedapo Adesanya
The House of Representatives has directed its committee on Petroleum Resources Downstream to investigative the true state of the Port Harcourt refinery, which the federal government has approved the sum of $1.5 billion for its rehabilitation.
The lower chamber also mandated the committee to carry out a comprehensive audit of funds previously spent on the Port Harcourt refinery and other refineries across the country.
This decision follows a motion moved as a matter of public importance by a lawmaker representing Etinan/Nsit Ibom/ Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency, Onofiok Luke.
While debating on the matter, the lawmakers expressed worry that so much had been spent on maintaining and rehabilitating the refineries but the output have barely improved.
They also asked the federal government to grant licenses and provide incentives for the construction of modular refineries.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) last week approved $1.5 billion for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery which is said to commence immediately.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva, who made the announcement after the FEC meeting, said the rehabilitation will be carried out in three phases.
According to the federal government, the first phase will be completed in 18 months which will take the refinery to a production of 90 per cent of its capacity. The second phase will be completed in 24 months, while the final phase will be completed in 44 months.
The approval came amidst a controversial price increase in the pump price of petrol that was later reversed.
Although Nigeria has four refineries, all government-owned, it currently imports virtually all its refined petroleum products.
Criticisms over Rehabilitation
The announcement by the federal government that $1.5 billion will be used for the exercise, was met with various criticisms.
Former Vice President, Mr Atiku Abubakar, described the proposal as a waste of resources.
In a statement, he said, “At this critical period, we must as a nation be prudent with the use of whatever revenue we are able to generate, and even if we must borrow, we must do so with the utmost responsibility and discipline.
“To, therefore, budget the sum of $1.5 billion to renovate or turn around the Port Harcourt Refinery would appear to be an unwise use of scarce funds at this critical juncture for a multiplicity of reasons.
“First of all, our refineries have been loss-making for multiple years, and indeed, it is questionable wisdom to throw good money after bad.
“At other times, I have counselled that the best course of action would be to privatise our refineries, so they can be run more effectively and efficiently.”
Mr Atedo Peterside, who was on the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) between 2010 and 2015, urged the federal government to halt the “brazen & expensive adventure.”
Mr Peterside said “many experts prefer that this refinery is sold by BPE to core-investors with proven capacity to repair it with their own funds.”
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