[Emeka Offor, chairman of Chrome Ltd]
A leading non-government organization (NGO) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate how the contracts for the Turn-Around Maintenance (TAM) of the
Old Port Harcourt Refinery with an installed capacity of 60,000 barrels per day.
Its counterpart, the Port Harcourt Refinery and Petrochemicals Company has a refining capacity of 150,000 barrels per day and both were awarded secretly by the Goodluck Jonathan administration to Chrome Oil Services.
In a press statement in Abuja today, the acting President of the Nigeria Renewal Movement (NRM), Dr Dagogo Brown, said that the contracts were given out without competitive bidding.
“In fact, the contacts worth several millions of dollars were awarded without being advertised in any national media”, Dr Brown stated. “Not even in the Federal Tenders Bulletin were interested contractors invited to bid.
Calling the contracts awards a clear violation of due process and laden with fraud, the NGO said that Nigerians were not aware of the existence of the contracts until Emeka Offor, chairman of Chrome and a controversial government contractor spoke to journalist at the weekend.
He spoke in response to the criticism by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in an interview last week with Premium Times that he was awarded the contract to do the TAM.
The TAM was at the 125,000 barrels per day Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company in 1994 which, according to the ex-Nigerian leader, he messed up.
Since then, noted the erstwhile president, Offor became close friends with every government which awarded him huge contracts, enabling him to move into more technical areas as electricity.
Ex-President Jonathan and his top officials in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) contended Dr Brown, “certainly knew that they were swindling Nigerian tax payers of a fortune, hence the secrecy which surrounded the whole deal.”
He added: “No one knows when the contracts were awarded, the contract sums, the timelines and conditions. Indeed, Nigerians were never told by the Jonathan government that there was any kind of move to fix the refineries.”
The government rather kept on telling Nigerians that the refineries had become practically useless on account of old age and lack of maintenance over the years, a statement meant to justify the continued importation of petroleum products by a cabal milking the country dry.
The NGO argued that it is self-evident that both the contracts to Chrome were not meant to be executed as the real intention was to use fixing the refineries as a platform to take out a colossal amount from the national treasury to finance the Jonathan reelection campaign and other special interests.
“It was the popular election of a well-known anticorruption leader, President Buhari, on March 28 which forced the contractor to mobilize to site and work for 24 hours every day of the week, including weekends”, he contended.
The Nigeria Renewal Movement said that refinery turn-around maintenance typically takes fewer than 90 days, claiming that their investigation revealed that the repairs of the two refineries started in April shortly after Buhari’s election victory.
Querying the quality of work which Chrome Oil Services could render, the group asked Buhari to find out from Jonathan and his officials why such critical jobs were given to Offor when a government probe into the so-called TAM at the Warri refinery in 1995 had recommended his blacklisting from all NNPC contracts.
Dr Brown recalled that the government accepted the recommendations of the probe, headed by the Aret Adams, a former NNPC Group Managing Director, that Offor be banned from all NNPC jobs and the dismissal of the managing director of the refinery, Dr Owokalu.
He remarked that the “hurried, frenetic execution of the TAM contracts for both the old and new Port Harcourt refineries since the election of President Buhari shows that it has dawned on all and sundry that Nigeria is now moving in a new direction. It is no longer business as usual for contractors and their collaborators in different ministries, departments and agencies.
“Still, Buhari owes the nation and indeed the international community which repose great confidence in his personal integrity and leadership abilities the duty to get to the root of how such colossal amounts of contracts were awarded secretly to a firm promoted by someone with an awful record in this field”.