Written by Godfrey AKON

FG under fire over $1.5bn refinery maintenance

Nigerians have strongly criticised the Federal Government’s approval of $1.5bn for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery.

The Federal Executive Council, FEC, had on Wednesday, at a meeting presided by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, approved the funds to rehabilitate the facility which has been in serious disrepairs.

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, who made the announcement while briefing newsmen at the end of the FEC meeting, said the rehabilitation which would be in three phases will commence immediately.

According to him, the rehabilitation work will be handled by an Italian firm, Tecnimont S.p.A, adding that the first phase would be completed in 18 months, the second phase in 24 months and the final phase would be within 44 months.

“The Ministry of Petroleum Resources presented a memo on the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refinery for the sum of 1.5 billion, and that memo was $1.5 billion and it was approved by council today.

“So we are happy to announce that the rehabilitation of productivity refinery will commence in three phases.

The first phase is to be completed in 18 months, which will take the refinery to a production of 90% of its nameplate capacity.

“The second phase is to be completed in 24 months and all the final stage will be completed in 44 months and consultations are approved.

“And I believe that this is good news for Nigeria,” he said.

But reacting to the development, Former Anambra State Governor, Mr. Perter Obi criticised the move describing the approval as a huge waste.

“Our country is on life support, but sadly the managers of our affairs are worsening the situation by their financial rascality.

“The news of the planned expenditure of a whopping $1.5 billion for Port Harcourt refinery repairs is worrisome to well-meaning Nigerians. In light of our precarious economic situation, it is a huge waste,” he said.

In a separate development, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, also described the federal government’s approval of $1.5 billion for the repairs of the Port Harcourt refinery as suspicious.

Atiku, in a statement maintained that it is prohibitive for the federal government to approve $1.5 billion for rehabilitation of the refinery.

“That Nigeria’s economy is in dire straits is a fact well known both to the nation and to our international partners. Unemployment has just reached an all-time high of 33 per cent, while inflation has hit another record high of 17 per cent.

“At this critical period, we must as a nation be prudent with the use of whatever revenue we can generate, and even if we must borrow, we must do so with the utmost responsibility and discipline.

“To, therefore, budget the sum of $1.5 billion to renovate or turn around the Port Harcourt Refinery would appear to be an unwise use of scarce funds at this critical juncture for an assortment of reasons.

“First, our refineries have been loss-making for multiple years, and indeed, it is questionable wisdom to throw good money after bad. At other times, I have counselled that the best course of action would be to privatise our refineries to be run more effectively and efficiently,” he said.



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