The Director-General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, has kicked against the demand for privatisation of a critical national assest like the Port Harcourt refinery.
Answering questions from newsmen in Abuja on Tuesday over the criticisms trailing the decision of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to rehabilitate the moribund Port Harcourt Refinery with a whopping $1.5 billion, Okechukwu said he supports the rehabilitation.
The chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) further emphasised that experience has shown that those State owned enterprises privatised, more or less did not advance economic development of our dear country as canvassed by World Bank and IMF in 1986.
Reminded of wastage of public funds that is the trade mark of government in Nigeria, which maybe the case of the rehabilitation exercise, Okechukwu noted: “We need efficient functional public owned refineries, therefore one is fully in support of the rehabilitation exercise.
“Yes, NNPC had disappointed us in the past with failed Turn-Around-Maintenance (TAM), which consumed mind boggling billions of Naira. Yes, NNPC reported operational losses running into billions over the years; however the gigantic Dangote Refinery, a worthy private enterprise needs strong competition to avoid monopoly,” he said.
On whether it is not better to privatise the refineries and save funds for other competing items like social infrastructure in the budget,
Okechukwu quipped; “I am one of those who still regret the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and its malcontent outcome like privatizations which had led to exit of local industries, gross unemployment, abject poverty and hunger in the land.
“For example, we privatized our cement factories, did it reduce the cost of cement in Nigeria? Or did cement manufacturing in private hands accelerate the building industry in Nigeria?” Okechukwu argued.
He dismissed the insinuation that there is no need to pump more public funds into the refinery since nothing good will come out of the rehabilitation because is too old.
“119 years old Chevron Richmond Refinery in San Fransisco, California is still functioning, let alone the 32 years old Port Harcourt Refinery. The Chevron Richmond Refinery was completed in July, 1902, was processing 10,000 barrels of crude per day, with a tank capacity of 185,000 at inception, later 250,000 barrels. And it is still in operation,” he argued.