Recent happenings have indicated that there seems to be a grand conspiracy by the apex ruling class of our nation, to the extent, to hijack and have total control of the nation’s economy.
This cannot be said to be a mere speculation or for want of what to say for purpose of seeking unnecessary relevance; but a truism, as a careful look at the turn of events in the nation’s economy have validated this position.
For purpose of specificity, this argument will be centered on the concerns in the nation’s petroleum sector.
The out-gone administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari spent eight years paying lip service to the issue of revamping the nation’s moribund Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna refineries, which it had claimed were undergoing turnaround maintenance throughout the lifespan of the administration.
According to Vanguard News (online) publication of August 30, 2022; Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC Ltd, Mele Kyari, had during the State House Ministerial Briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team, said the importation of petroleum products into the country will be stopped by mid-2023.
According to him, the combined output of Nigeria’s refineries which he said were being revamped and Dangote refinery, would be enough to stop importation.
However, since such assurances where given almost one year ago, the NNPC limited led by Mele Kyari failed to show commitment in ensuring that the three refineries of Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna come back to their full production capacity.
Unfortunately, the NNPC limited led by Mele Kyari, the statutory industry regulator and affirmatively a competitor with three moribund refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna, decided without public knowledge or input, to purchase 20% shares in Dangote Refinery, a private entity, thereby enabling it gain advantage over the government owned refineries.
Meanwhile, the value of 20% shares acquired from Dangote refinery is US $2.8 Billion.
This move as clearly indicated defies every logical reasoning; as one would wonder the rational behind supporting another man’s business at the expense of the survival of government business with public interest.
The question here is, what is the special interest in Dangote Refinery?
Was due process followed in the acquisition of the 20% shares from Dangote refinery?
Who approved the acquisition bearing in mind that government refineries were still in a state of disrepair?
What happened to channeling such funds to ensuring the turn around maintenance of at least the Port Harcourt and Warri refineries?
Now, the NNPC limited led by Mele Kyari did not stop there, it went further to become the sole supplier of the nation’s crude to Dangote to the tune of 33,000 barrels minimum for the next 20 years. All these investment in a private facility, while the nation’s refineries remain moribund are to say the least, worrisome.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in providing support and enabling environment for the private sector, but should not be done to undermine public interest.
In 2021, The Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by former President Buhari who was also the Minister of Petroleum, had approved the sum of $1.5b (equivalent to about N575b), for immediate commencement of rehabilitation works on the 210,000 barrels per day Port Harcourt Refinery.
Till date, the Port Harcourt refinery is yet to process a drop of petroleum product.
Meanwhile, Mr Buhari on May 22nd 2023 one week to the expiration of his administration, hurriedly commissioned the Dangote refinery that is only 80% completed.
Findings indicate that the refinery may not be functional until January 2024.
NNPC, the industry regulator had advised the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee that the Dangote Refinery would be up and Running in March 2023 hence there would be no need to make provisions for Subsidy in 2023/24 Budget.
Unfortunately, provision for subsidy in the 2023 budget elapses by the end of June 2023, yet the Dangote refinery commissioned in May 22nd is not ready, while the nation’s three refineries remain moribund.
Despite these harsh economic realities, President Bola Tinubu on his inaugural speech said “subsidy is gone”. And by that singular announcement, in less than 24 hours, the nation’s economy took a drastic turn, as cost of living skyrocketed to the high heavens.
And barely 24hours after that announcement, the same NNPC limited, despite having imported premium motor spirit – PMS at a subsidized rate in stock, in a manner as to adding salt to injury, jacked up price of PMS from N189per litre to above N500per litre, leaving majority of the Nigerian populace groan in economic hardship.
And still at the commissioning of the half baked Refinery, Godwin Emefiele, the now suspended famous Central Bank Governor, announced that Dangote had paid 70% of the loan he took for construction of the refinery.
One would be forced to ask, how did a Refinery that is not yet operational raise money to pay 70% of its loan.
The Nigeria stock exchange does not have any record of share sales in relation to Dangote Refinery other than the NNPC investment.
The former CBN boss said the refinery was initially estimated to cost about $9 billion but that the project cost escalated and was eventually completed with a total of $18.5 billion.
The amount, he said, constituted 50% equity investment by Dangote and 50% debt finance by banks.
Emefiele said the CBN also partnered with the Dangote Group to ensure successful completion of the project by providing about N125 BILLION for domestic currency requirements, while also ensuring the availability of foreign exchange (FX) to pay for imported equipment.
There seems to be more than meets the eye in these whole imbroglio.
One would wonder, to what end are all these energy and efforts expended by the NNPC limited and the CBN to aide a private refinery, a competitor work, while the nation’s refineries continue to lay waste despite the huge finances the federal government claims to have committed to the turn around maintenance of the facilities.
This trend was a similar move made by the Federal Government when Alikor Dangote came into cement production; the government brought in a fictitious quality standard designed to restrict cement supply to his company and cut off all imports.
The same style has now been adopted to grant Dangote the exclusive right to supply petrol to NNPC at a price determined by Dangote and his cohorts.
In conclusion – it can be deduced that the subsidy removal was planned and agreed by the government as a pre-condition for Dangote to build the 650,000 barrels per day refinery, even when the world over was gradually moving away from Fossil Fuel.
The removal of subsidy on petrol is to maximize profits for the owners of Dangote Refinery who are obviously Muhammadu Buhari, Mele Kyari, Godwin Emefiele, and so on. The list is endless.
They do not care about the wellbeing of Nigerians, as the government has failed to provide any form of social security and welfare for her citizens.
Stories about providing loans and palliatives to cushion the effects of the subsidy removal are all geared towards deceiving the Nigerian people as usual.
They do not realize that the Nigerian state is gradually drifting towards the state of anarchy.
However, if the Mele Kyari’s NNPC limited and the CBN feel otherwise about this position, they should also extend same gesture to other private entities investing in the nation’s petroleum industry.
A quick pick would be the Abdul Samad Rabiu BUA Group which is currently constructing the Akwa Ibom III petrochemical refinery at Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, which is expected to commence operations in 2024.
This call or challenge has become imperative owed to the huge contribution of the Niger Delta in providing the economic sustenance of the country for several decades.
A functional refinery in the Niger Delta will guarantee rapid infrastructural and human capital development, while the issue of underdevelopment of the Niger Delta despite its huge contribution to the nation’s economy cannot be stressed enough.
The federal government seems to have lost interest in the operationalization of the Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna refineries, and obviously so.
Since it now only shows interest in supporting private sector players thrive in the petroleum sector; to ensure fairness and a level playing field, the CBN should equally extend its kind gesture to invest in the Bua refinery to fast track its completion for the benefit of the Niger Delta.
1. We call on the 10th National Assembly to as a matter of necessity, probe the US $26.5 Billion so far expended by successive governments within the past 27years in the so called turnaround maintenance of the Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna refineries. According to Guardian report of March 21, 2021, the said sum is capable of building three new refineries of the same size going by the cost analysis of refinery projects across the world.
2. That the 10th National Assembly should probe the failure of full operation of the three nation’s refineries despite assurances by the immediate past administration that it would facilitate the complete rehabilitation of the Warri and Kaduna refineries before the end of the administration’s lifespan, after it approved US$1.5Billion for the turn around maintenance of the Port Harcourt refinery.
3. That the National Assembly should probe the activities of the Chief Executive Officer of NNPC limited, Mele Kyari and intensify efforts on the ongoing probe of the CBN under the regime of its suspended governor, Godwin Emefiele over their roles on the failure of the country’s petroleum industry under former President Muhammadu Buhari.
4. That this is also a clarion call on all compatriots, men of goodwill and youths of the Niger Delta to lend their voices to this course in order to rescue our collective common wealth from the hands of few individuals, and restore it back to the generality of the Nigerian people.
High Chief Hon. Amb Sobomabo Jackrich (General Egberipapa)