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Kyari Asserts That Poor Maintenance Culture Killed Nigeria’s Refineries: Competition Is How To Exit The Problem

The Oasis Reporters

October 15, 2019

Speaking recently, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has blamed the moribund state of the country’s refineries on lack of proper maintenance of the facilities over the years.

The NNPC, while stating that Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of technicians in the petroleum sector in the world, decried that the experts have not been adequately engaged.

The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mr Mele Kyari, made said this assertion when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum (Upstream) in Abuja on Monday.

Mele Kyari has indeed stated the obvious facts that are in the public domain already. Those words shall be in the realm of sweet words and the lack of political will to tackle the problem that has bedevilled the sector since the Babangida days and it will end up fleecing the nation in billions of dollars again. In the end, it will be back to square one.

Answering a question on the technical capacity of the NNPC to properly manage oil exploration, refinery and sales, Kyari admitted that there was enough manpower in the petroleum sector to develop the industry but that the experts had not been properly engaged. If there was no proper engagement of Nigeria’s skilled manpower in the past, what is going to be the difference this time around ?

He said, “The oil industry is a technology-based industry and this technology evolves everyday. I can assure that in the entire global oil and gas industry, there is nowhere you would have gone that you would not find a skilled Nigerian working in the oil and gas industry. And indeed, we are probably the largest contributor to skilled manpower in the industry of all the black nations of the world.

“Today in the industry, over 90 per cent of the technical personnel are sourced locally; they are run by Nigerians. There is really no lack of such capacity. What is true is that engagement of these people has not been optimised. And this is what we need to work with the Nigerian Content Development Board, to make sure that certain skills that come up from time to time on need basis are provided for, so that this industry continues to grow.

“Let me address the issue of refineries: the refineries didn’t fail because there were no skills, they failed because we are unable to take care of the refineries. And we don’t have to give excuses why we didn’t take care of them. We can blame anyone. But what we have decided to do is to make them work. There is no scarcity of skilled people.

“The will is there today and our plan is to get them to work. And I assure you that the plans we have in place will deliver these refineries. There is no issue around absence of skills, we have the best refiners in the world; anywhere you go in the world, they will attest to it that we have the best refiners who are Africans in this country.”

For the refineries to work, government policy should change, by driving refining to the private sector. Simple !
NNPC is designed to be bureaucratic, where cryonism abounds. But the moment all bottlenecks to the licensing and operation of private modular refineries are lifted and direct sales of crude oil is guaranteed and granted to the private refiners, NNPC and Nigeria’s moribund refineries would wake up suddenly. It doesn’t really take more than 9 months to get a modular refinery of say, 50,000 BPD to get cracking. Once Nigeria’s refineries see competition from the private sector, they would think with positivity, and fix the refineries at very little costs.

Then look at the illegal refiners in the creeks and bring them out from the shadows. License them, help them standardize their operations, supply them with crude oil as well as buy their products, Nigeria would quickly exit the problem.

As long as subsidy is being paid with the amount now running into trillions of naira on imported refined products, the problem would remain the same. Let’s not deceive each other.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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