Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Heineken Lokpobiri, has said that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited will be accountable for the successful rehabilitation of Nigeria’s refineries.
He made this remark while speaking with journalists at the end of a three-day ministerial retreat in Abuja. He said he had inspected all the refineries and was following up on their progress.
The Federal Government is rehabilitating the refineries in Port Harcourt, Kaduna, and Warri, which have suffered from years of neglect and poor performance. A report by the house of representatives ad hoc committee revealed that the government had spent N11.34 trillion on the refineries from 2010 to 2020.
Lokpobiri said the NNPC had told him that the first phase of the Port Harcourt and Warri refineries would be ready by the end of this year, while the second and third phases of Port Harcourt and the whole of Kaduna refinery would be ready by the end of next year.
He said he would continue to visit the refineries without notice to ensure that they were on track. He also expressed hope that the Dangote refinery, which is expected to be the largest in Africa, would also come on stream soon.
The minister said he had eased the process of obtaining licences for modular refineries, which are smaller and simpler to operate. He said he had signed many licences within 24 hours, as long as the applicants met the requirements.
However, he warned that he would cancel the licences of those who did not use them within the specified terms. He said the main challenge for the modular refineries was the availability of crude oil feedstock.
Lokpobiri also stressed the need to increase the country’s oil production, which he said was the key to solving the petrol crisis. He said the country must produce enough crude oil to feed the refineries and the distribution network.
He said: “Yes, the rehabilitation of the refineries if you could remember, was started by the previous administration. And as part of the President’s directive, I have gone round all the refineries and from what they have briefed me, Port Harcourt has 3 phases, so phase 1 will be ready by the end of this year.
“I am not the one who is directly in charge of rehabilitation, it is the NNPCL and they have told me and I am holding them accountable. For Warri refinery, they said phase 1 will be ready by the end of the year. Phase 2 and 3 in Port Harcourt will be ready next year and the whole of Kaduna refinery will be ready by the end of next year.
“That is what they said and I am holding them accountable to their own words. I will be going there in the next few weeks. I go there regularly and sometimes without a schedule so that nobody plans for me. I just appear to see what is going on. I believe that those refineries, if we are able to achieve some level of rehabilitation by the end of this year, will also improve our domestic refining capacity. But that is not even the problem, Dangote refinery too is coming.”
He added: “We have a lot of modular refineries that we have given licenses but the challenge has been the feedstock. Even if you have the modular refinery do you have the crude to be able to refine? That’s why I said unless we produce sufficient quantities, even if the refineries are rehabilitated there will be no feedstock
“So my challenge is to ramp up production so that we can see how we can feed not only the big refineries but also the modular refineries, these are the real employers of labour and they will do the magic.
“What I have done is also liberalise the process to acquire licences. Before I came they said sometimes it takes so long to acquire licences, so I said I don’t want to know your face provided the requirements are met, bring them to me I will sign within 24 hours and I have signed them.
“I have also said I don’t want to give people licences and they use them as souvenirs, if you are given a licence you must use it within the terms, or else I will cancel it. Just like I didn’t know you before signing the licence, I will also cancel without blinking an eye.”