By Kingsley Jeremiah,
Some stakeholders have urged Federal Government to suspend its plan to spend about $1.5 billion on rehabilitation of the 210,000 barrels per day (bpd) Port Harcourt Refinery.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, last week, had approved $1.5billion (about N575b) for rehabilitation of the 32-year-old refinery.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, had explained, thereafter, that contract for the rehabilitation was awarded to an Italian firm, Tecnimont SPA, and would be executed in three phases. The first phase is expected to be completed within 28 months, Sylva said, adding that the second and third phases would be completed in 24 and 44 months.
But the planned repair has been eliciting condemnation. Latest criticism came, yesterday, from founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Atedo Peterside, who called on the Federal Government to shelve the rehabilitation and subject it to a national debate.
Taking to his official Twitter page, @atedopeterside, the entrepreneur said: “Federal Government should halt $1.5billion approval for repair of Port Harcourt Refinery and subject this brazen and expensive adventure to an informed national debate.”
Peterside said many experts preferred that the refinery is sold by Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to core-investors with proven capacity to repair it with their own funds.
A former President of Nigeria Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), Abiodun Adesanya, said that the ulterior motive might not be far from raising funds for the 2023 election.
“The $26.5billion spent altogether in trying to fix these refineries over the years have not yielded any results,” Adesanya lamented.
According to him, the timing of the announcement is largely seen as another fund raising mechanism for the 2023 election. “Public confidence that any of the refineries will work without selling them off to private sector is very weak.”
Chairman of Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN), Bank-Anthony Okoroafor, said it was better for government to sell the refinery for $1 and allow private investors to run it than rehabilitate it.
“The government has no business running refineries. They should sell the Port Harcourt refinery for $1 to capable private investors who will run it profitably and pay tax to the government. The government’s role should be regulatory,” he insisted