*Insists govt has no business with refineries
By Ezeocha Nzeh
Contrary to the position held by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Silva, that government will soon reactivate major oil refineries in the country, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has disagreed, saying that the Buhari administration has resolved that government has no business running oil refineries in the country.
Silva had assured recently in an interview that the federal government will soon release funds for the reactivation of about five refineries in the country, even as he said that work has already commenced at the Port Harcourt refinery, adding that additional refinery would be added to boost its capacity.
According to him, “what we have done is to sequence the rehabilitation of the refineries. We are going to start first with Port Harcourt refinery.
“In Port Harcourt we have two refineries: the old refinery and the new refinery. The old refinery of 60,000 barrels, and the new refinery, which gives a total capacity of 250,000 barrels.
“There is going to be a third refinery within Port Harcourt refinery, which his going to co-locate. It is going to be a private refinery. That project will be signed in the fourth quarter of 2020. And by the first quarter of 2021, work will start in earnest.
“Discussions are on-going with rehabilitations of Warri and Kaduna as well. And I want to assure you that with deregulation, it would not be difficult for us to fix these refineries because this will be commercially viable ventures now and properly managed.
“Government is not going to continuously manage them. We want to put the Operate and Manage contract so that the professional managers of refineries will take over the management of these refineries.
“We believe that the four refineries in Nigeria will soon be rehabilitated and be brought back to production because of deregulation.”
But, the Vice-President speaking during a virtual meeting organised for the All Progressives Congress (APC) Social Media Bloggers and Influencers in Abuja, said the Nigerian government will rely majorly on the private sector to build refineries.
He stressed that government believes that the private sector as playing a bigger role in investing in and running oil refineries moving forward, emphasizing that government owned refineries has not impacted positively, adding that the challenges confronting government-owned refineries will persist if left the way they are at the moment.
He however assured that government will continue to explore cheaper gas resources as alternative, to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians and reduce the pains of the new petroleum pump price hike.
Osinbajo expressed confidence that the energy crisis in the country will ease by the first quarter of 2021 when most of the modular refineries would have come on stream.
“I do not think that it is the business of government to run the refinery. It should be the business of the private sector, which is why we are trying to focus on assisting the private sector to develop modular refineries.
“There is a 100,000 barrel capacity refinery about to come on stream. It is completely private and closely located near the Port Harcourt refinery so that it can share the facilities at the refinery. We are hopeful it will come on stream in the first quarter of next year.
‘There are also six modular refineries that are almost ready. There is the Niger Delta Petroleum refinery in Delta State. There is another one in Imo State. There is also another modular refinery in Edo State.
“We engaged the oil producing communities to find a new vision for the Niger Delta and we tried to encourage modular refinery that will give the people in the oil producing states a stake so that the modular refinery is not just private, but the people there have some stake and equity.
“The whole idea is to support as many private refineries as possible.
“We are also waiting for the Dangote Refinery with 250,000 barrels capacity, which is bigger than all of the government refineries put together.
“In the next two or three months, we will see the private sector playing a bigger role and things will quickly improve.
“We hope that this particular effort will complete the refurbishment of the refineries which will be completed soon but I am more hopeful of the private effort been the key to the future”.
He added that government lays more emphasis on gas resources for cheaper energy source, saying it is the way to go.