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State Of NNPC Refineries: NLC, PENGASSAN And The Rest Of Us

By: Ifeanyi Izeze


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When Ayuba Wabba, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), at the opening ceremony of the NLC 12th Delegates Conference held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, threatened to shut down any government that intends to privatise the NNPC or its refineries, two things immediately became obvious.

The author, Ifeanyi Izeze

The first is that Labour may be missing the point in this entire issue of concessioning or even outrightly selling off the existing federal government owned refineries.  The other is that the leadership of the organised labour union particularly NUPENG AND PENGASSAN (NNPC and DPR) branches may be complicit in the sabotage that has crippled all the federal government-owned refineries.

As part of his remarks, Ayuba stressed that organised labour union would not support any policy on privatisation or sale of the refinery. And in his words: “We say no to the sale of our refinery and want a review of the power sector privatisation.”

Let’s even look at it: The NNPC- owned three and half refineries stopped optimal crude oil processing since 2002 and by 2008 the cumulative capacity utilisation crashed to 25 percent or even less. This is the truth and nothing but the truth no matter what managers of the plants and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources would want us believe!

Curiously, at the same summit, the NNPC Chief Operating Officer, Refineries was quick to inform the audience that “the Port Harcourt refinery had its last Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) in 2000, Warri in 2004 and Kaduna in 2008.” Is this true?

As said by an analyst, Wole Awosika, “In the last ten years, the refineries have become despicable behemoths, yet between these periods the federal government spent $2-3billion on Turn Around Maintenance (TAM), which failed repeatedly to optimize operational capacity for profitable operations. Meanwhile, NETCO, the engineering subsidiary of the NNPC still has thousands of engineers employed that are still collecting expatriate salaries for the purpose of the refineries.

“It’s only the emotionally ill-formed that would say government should not privatise or even sell it off, that said don’t be surprised however, that once it’s sold it would magically roar back to life.

“So, it could also mean that fifth columnists have been at work all these while to justify the booming subsidy market which stands at N1.4 trillion Naira in payments by the Buhari administration and the highest in the history of the nation’s subsidy scam.

Members of the oil workers unions have docilely sat down there at the refineries collecting huge salaries and doing nothing for almost two decades now and it just did not bother them. So who should be talking of patriotism: the person who is concerned about bringing the plants back to life even if it means concessioning or outrightly selling them off or the group that sit down and collect salaries for doing nothing? I just hope we have not completely lost our conscience as a nation of people.

What has stopped Labour particularly the oil and gas unions: NUPENG and PENGASSAN from championing the cause of interrogating the despicable management of the federal government –owned existing refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and, Kaduna?

The oil and gas labour unions particularly the branches at the refineries should come out openly to patriotically tell Nigerians that the Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna Refineries have been working processing crude oil, so we can take it from there. If the plants have been working, what were the daily throughputs and the quantity by volume or tonnage of outputs particularly petrol, kerosene and diesel churned out on daily basis by the three plants? Where does the Kaduna plant get its crude oil feedstock from because every day the NNPC tells us that it is spending hundreds of millions of US Dollars fixing breaches on the crude supply trunkline from the oil producing Niger Delta region.

There has to be a paradigm shift in the way we do things in this country if Nigeria as a nation of people is going to make significant inroads in developing her economy. We must develop the will power to be honest in seeking solutions to problems confronting us as a nation. If the labour unions must “aluta”, let them do it with the aim of correcting aberrations in the system.

This same Labour had sat down and watch the NNPC figure on our daily PMS (Petrol) consumption escalate from less than 30 million litres a day to the current 60 million litres and yet they were bothered that there may be a correlation between the crippling of our refineries and the escalating subsidy scam. Haba, when are we going to be serious in this country?

Nigerians would have expected the oil and gas unions to interrogate the government and the top management of the NNPC on the continued payment of the ever increasing subsidy on petrol as the union members are well aware that NNPC takes 450, 000 barrels of crude oil everyday to carter for the nation’s domestic consumption.

The leadership of Organised Labour particularly the oil and gas unions, NNPC and its managers should tell us if there are things they know that the rest of us don’t as pertains to the reason the nation’s existing three and half refineries are disabled all at the same time? How come they are not perturbed at best and at worst ashamed that of all the refineries owned by the corporation, none is working aside every morning flare up to deceive those who don’t know?

The CBN governor publicly stated that the apex bank is ready to provide funds for projects to any organisation that is credit worthy, is the leadership of PENGASSAN/NUPENG thinking of engaging the administrators of the NNPC to exploit that opening for its refinery revamp project?

Can we even trust PENGASSAN/NUPENG leadership even if it’s only the NNPC and DPR branches to be creative enough to take initiatives like these?

The answer is NO, at least not with the current crop of the unions’ leadership that carry themselves as if they are Senators of the federal Republic. If you see them in Abuja carrying on their wuru wuru businesses, you will know that for this country, it’s only God that can fight for the interest of the common man.

It is worrisome that the leadership of the NNPC has continued to resist full concession model to tackle the problems with the nation’s existing three and a half refineries. They keep insisting that full concessioning or outright sales are not options. meanwhile they don’t even have any idea of workable alternatives to get back the plants working at optimal levels and if they do, they have not told us. You see self-serving people managing critical infrastructures of this country!

If funding has been the  major problem of the corporation in bringing the refineries to work optimally as disclosed by Kragha Anibor, NNPC Chief Operating Officer, Refineries, at a panel session at the recently concluded Nigerian International Petroleum summit (NIPS), in Abuja, why is the CBN that is funding the Dangote Refinery not approached by NNPC to raise funds?

The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele at his recent visit to Dangote Refinery Project headquarters promised the apex bank’s assistance to other refineries’ licencees whose banks can vouch for their credit worthiness. If fund is what has kept the NNPC refineries down for so long, why is the corporation not sourcing funds from the CBN to revitalise its disabled plants? If there is any operator in this country that is credit worthy, is it not the NNPC?

In the CBN governor’s words: “My suggestion is that if there are people that have interest in CBN’s support, they should go to their banks and if their banks are able to display their credit worthiness to be able access such facility, CBN is ready to support them in naira and dollar that they need to import equipment that will enable them conduct their businesses.

“I have not seen any, if I see any through their banks; I can assure they will receive this kind of support Dangote got from CBN.”

NNPC, now the ball is in your court that is if managers of the corporation are convinced they know what to do to bring back our refineries if funds are available. God bless Nigeria!!

(IFEANYI IZEZE: iizeze@yahoo.com; 234-8033043009)

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