From Fred Itua and Adewale Sanyaolu, Abuja
The Senate, yesterday, ordered the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to halt further action or planned concession of the Port Harcourt Refinery to Agip and Oando.
In a motion sponsored by Senator Sabo Mohammed and tagged, “Non-Transparent Transaction relating to the planned concession of the Port Harcourt Refinery to Agip and Oando by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources”, the Senate questioned the rationale behind the action.
Accordingly, the Senate has set up an adhoc committee to carry out a holistic investigation to determine how and why such a deal was sealed and the criteria used to select Agip and Oando to maintain and operate the Port Harcourt Refinery, at what cost and time frame.
Senator Mohammed, in his motion, claimed that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had revealed that the agreement was part of a broader government plan to increase capacity for local production and consumption of petroleum products with the aim of ending fuel importation in Nigeria by 2019.
The Jigawa-born lawmaker further observed that the planned concession of Port Harcourt Refinery was without recourse to due process and described it as illegal and a clear attempt at ridiculing Nigerians. He said the action would create a hole that will be hard to fill in the anti-corruption crusade of the present administration.
He said the action by Kachikwu goes contrary to claims he made in late 2015, when he declared the three refineries in the country, namely, Warri, Kaduna and Port Harcourt would be working at 90 per cent capacity, thereby reducing importation and subsidy controversies. The senator wondered why in 2017, the refineries were yet to be fixed and cannot produce 50 per cent.
Senators Dino Melaye and Kabiru Gaya, supported the motion and called on the Senate to take a firm action. Melaye in his submissions, said consessioning of government-owned companies have always been mismanaged in the past.
Gaya on his part said in the absence of Kaduna and Warri refineries, which are currently dysfunctional, it would be unfair to sell off the Port Harcourt Refinery to investors.
But Kachikwu, in far away Vienna, Austria, said refineries’ repair cannot be done in an open bidding process. Speaking to newsmen, Kachikwu said the refineries’ concession “is a highly technical area. What we have done is to invite those who have experience in refining, but it is open, anybody who feels he has the skills and has the money is welcome. It is not just about the skills but the money too.
But the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has said it was unaware of the proposed rehabilitation and operation under a concession arrangement of the 210,000 barrels per day (bpd) Port Harcourt Refinery by oil firms – Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and Oando
BPE said that despite its listing of the refinery along with Warri and Kaduna refineries on its privatisation schedule,it has however not been involved in plans by the Federal Government to concession the Port Harcourt refinery to Agip and Oando on a repair, operate and maintain basis.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu Kachikwu had earlier in May at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston Texas, stated that the government had got bids from investors to revamp the three refineries, and would make known the preferred offers by September.
However, Chief executive officer, Oando Plc, Mr. Wale Tinubu had at a presentation on the underlying facts of the group’s operations at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on May 11 2017, in Lagos, said the group has received approval of the government to oversee the Port Harcourt Refinery.
“We also got approval from the President to repair, operate and maintain the Port-Harcourt refinery together with our partner Agip. We plan to increase the refinery capacity from 30 per cent to a 100 per cent, subsequently to 120 per cent,” Tinubu said.
He said the parties to the transaction were finalising the details of the arrangement that will help to enhance the efficiency of refinery.
He noted that the group has deleveraged its balance sheet through the divestment of its upstream services company, Oando Energy Services and embarked on the expansion of its retail and gas footprint through a strategic partnership with Helios Investment Partners and Vitol Group to recapitalise its downstream business for $210 million and the $115.8 equity buy-in of its Gas and Power business by Helios Investment Partners.
He said the company was considering raising some N40 billion in new capital.
“Remember, we do not have the money, and what we call them in is to rebuild, help us manage and recoup their money from the incremental production and that is ongoing, it has not been decided, the entire three refineries are up on the refurbishing scheme.”
Responding to the alleged bias in the selection process of Agip and Oando Plc as partners to operate the Port Harcourt Refinery and Petrochemical Company, Kachikwu said final decision on the refineries has not been reached.
He said the Federal Government has decided to concession all four refineries in the country by August, saying, “we hope to award the contracts by July/August and hopefully, between 12 and 18 months to be able to get the refineries fully back, and the model is to bring investors, who will repair the refineries and they recoup their money from the incremental production.
“We are ready to offer all the three refineries for investors who have money to repair and manage. People keep mentioning Agip and Oando Plc but nobody has made the final decision on those. They are probably the front runners because they put a lot of work on that but I am not in the Technical Committee, I am the chair of the Steering Committee. When members of the Technical Committee meet and finish their work, they will refer it to the Steering Committee and then it goes to NNPC board, so all the hullabaloo about the transparency, there is no basis for that.”