By Adewale Sanyaolu
The Federal Government last week came under severe attacks over Federal Executive Council’s (FEC) approval for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery at a cost of $1.5 billion.
This was even as the Port Harcourt Refining Company posted a loss of N229.14 billion from 2015 to 2019 but generated a paltry N10.33 billion for the same period, according to data from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) financial statements.
The refinery generated zero revenue in 2019; N1.46 billion in 2018; N4.82billion in 2017; N3.37billion in 2016, and N683.52million in 2015.
It lost N50.53billion in 2019; N45.59billion in 2018; N53.77billion in 2017; N43.44billion in 2016, and N35.81billion in 2015.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, earlier told journalists in Abuja last Wednesday that the first phase of the rehabilitation project will be completed in 18 months which takes the refinery to a production capacity of 90 per cent while the second phase and final phase will be completed in 24 and 44months respectively. But the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, said that more information was needed to justify the rehabilitation of the refinery.
Also outraged were the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, and Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 Presidential elections, Peter Obi, and Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, among others who have also criticised the proposed project, saying besides being too expensive, it was an unwise decision economically to rehabilitate the seemingly moribund and unviable refinery.
Others say the refineries have become drain pipes and cesspool of corruption for successive governments, saying that privatisation remained the best alternative.
Fayemi who spoke on Friday during an interview on Channels Television Hard Copy, faulted the project, noting that a private refinery built by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote is almost underway.
“I wouldn’t have taken that decision given the fact that we know that a big refinery, private-sector driven is coming on stream but I don’t have the information that led to that decision at first,” he stated.
When you are outside a decision-making frame, there are some information that may not be available to you if you look at it at the pure face value. It may not be justifiable but we don’t have all the information responsible for that decision.”
For his part, Obi said approving such an amount for refinery repairs in light of Nigeria’s economic situation is a huge waste.
He accused the leaders of worsening the country’s situation by their financial rascality. Obi said on Twitter, “The news of the planned expenditure of a whopping $1.5 billion for Port Harcourt refinery repairs is worrisome to well-meaning Nigerians. In light of our precarious economic situation, it is a huge waste.
“Our country on life support, but sadly the managers of our affairs are worsening the situation by their financial rascality.”
The government-owned refineries, being run by the NNPC, reported a total loss of N778.71bn from 2015 to 2019, an analysis of data collated from their financial statements has shown.
The refineries generated total revenue of N21.12bn in the five-year period as they operated at below their full capacities.