Atiku faults NNPCL’s plan to hand over ‘rehabilitated’ port harcourt refinery to private firms

THE former vice president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, has faulted the move by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL, to hand over the Port Harcourt refinery after its rehabilitation.

Atiku, who was reacting to the decision, on Tuesday, January 16, via his X handle, stated that the Company must explain to Nigerians what they stand to gain by handing over the refinery to a private firm.

According to him, the NNPCL should have sold the Port Harcourt refinery before rehabilitation to avoid debt.

The ICIR reports that, on Monday, January 15, the petroleum company disclosed that it is seeking private companies for the operation and maintenance of its Port Harcourt refinery in Rivers state.

The NNPCL said the move is intended “to ensure reliability and sustainability towards meeting the nation’s fuel supply and energy security obligations.”

This was coming a few weeks after the federal government announced the ‘mechanical completion’ and the flare start-off of the Port Harcourt refinery.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Heineken Lokpobiri, announced the development during a tour of the Port Harcourt refinery on Thursday, December 21 in a statement signed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited company (NNPCL) on Thursday, December 21.

The refinery was shut down in March 2019 for the first phase of repair works after the government secured the service of Italy’s Maire Tecnimont to handle the scoping of its complex, with oil major Eni appointed technical adviser.

Meanwhile, in 2023, the Nigerian government resumed rehabilitation of three of its four refineries – Warri, Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries.

Reacting to the latest development, Abubakar, who has been a staunch advocate of privatisation of the oil company, questioned the government’s plan to hand over the maintenance and operation of the refinery to private investors.

He said, “I have always advocated for far-reaching reforms to reposition Nigeria’s oil sector and, indeed, other sectors of our economy. In particular, I had consistently called on the Buhari administration to break its monopoly in all infrastructure sectors, including the refineries, and give investors, both foreign and domestic, a larger role in funding and management.



    “My position has been well laid out in The Atiku Plan (2018) and My Covenant With Nigerians (2022). But our suggestions fell on deaf ears.  First, they refused to privatize the refineries. They left them idle for years while paying humongous staff salaries. 

    “Then, they contracted a loan of US$1.5 billion for rehabilitation. Now, the current administration wants to turn the rehabilitated refinery to private concerns for operation and maintenance!”

    He emphasized that, regardless of the terms in the NNPC-private operators agreement, selling the refinery before rehabilitation would have been a more favorable option, preventing the burden of debt.

    “The @nnpclimited must explain to the satisfaction of Nigerians what benefits its newly discovered approach to privatisation will confer on Nigeria and Nigerians,” he added.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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