Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Heineken Lokpobiri, has declared that the federal government would hold the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) accountable for the complete rehabilitation of all the nation’s refineries, as scheduled, by the end of 2024. Lokpobiri stated this at the weekend, while fielding questions from newsmen at the end of a three-day retreat for Ministers, Special Advisers and other presidential aides at the Conference Centre of State House, Abuja.
NNPC has the responsibility of rehabilitating three refineries in the country to reduce fuel scarcity and increase dependence on natural gas
The Senate recently constituted an ad-hoc committee to investigate NNPCL over the N11.35 trillion spent on Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries. The committee was meant to interrogate officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), NNPC, and the Bureau of Public Enterprises on the best approach to commercialising and ensuring profitability of the state-owned refineries.
Asked when the rehabilitation of the refineries would be completed, the minister explained, “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 NNPC 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. Phases 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 will go there regularly and sometimes without schedule so that nobody plans for me. I just appear to see what is going on.
“I believe that those refineries, if we are able to 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, Dangote refinery, too, is coming.”
Lokpobiri said regarding the modular refineries, “We have a lot of modular refineries that we have given licences but the challenge has been the feedstock. Even if you have the modular refinery, do you have the crude to be able to refine?”
Lokpobiri revealed that more modular refineries were being licenced by the present administration but warned that government would not hesitate to revoke licences of underutilised modular refineries.
He stated, “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 licences. Before I came they said sometimes it took so long to acquire licences, so I said I don’t want to know your face provided the requirements are met, bring to me, I will sign within 24 hours, and I have signed them.
“I have also said I don’t want to give people licences and they use it as souvenirs, if you are given a license you must use it within the terms, else, I will cancel it. Just like I didn’t know you before signing the license, I will also cancel without blinking an eye.”
According to the minister, the easiest way to get out of the country’s fuel crisis is to increase crude production. He said by the end of 2023, the target crude oil production by the federal government was expected to rise to two million barrels per day.
He said, “If we don’t increase the crude production 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 as 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.
“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 and so forth.
“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 two million barrels per day.”