Endless wait for moribund refineries

In about a decade now, the four gigantic snakes, two in Port Harcourt, one in Warri and another in Kaduna, have been doing (in)justice to the nation’s tilt.
Cartoon flakes

Cartoon flakes

The Punch, Baba Dende

One pretty interesting thing about Nigeria is its ability to treat the citizens to some comic relief and allow them to smirk at the mess created by political office holders even while smarting from the government’s failure. Such pain-relieving moments are quite many but I am sure the story of a mystical snake that swallowed N36m circa February 2018 from the vault of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board somewhat stood out. Need I to bore you with details behind this well crafted Nollywood blockbuster? I don’t think so, especially when there are more snakes in different forms and shapes across the country gulping billions of naira – sometimes in dollar equivalent.

In about a decade now, the four gigantic snakes, two in Port Harcourt, one in Warri and another in Kaduna, have been doing (in)justice to the nation’s tilt. Year-in-year-out, the government continues pumping money deep into the bellies of the snakes but what they pump in return is little fuel or nothing on many occasions. Ordinarily, this shouldn’t have steered up any debate as many people seem to have given up a long time ago on the possibility that the moribund snakes would be resurrected by the government someday. But Baba assured us that his regime can do wonders with the dead snakes by feeding them with more raw cash. And true to his words, he did feed them handsomely even though they have yet to come out of a coma.

After millions of dollars in the mills, the 2ic (second-in-command) to Baba on Petroleum matter said on Tuesday on a national television programme that only the two dead snakes in Port Harcourt would be revived by 60 per cent and that his boss’ successor would continue with the resurrection.

Hear the 2ic: “We expect that by the end of this year, in Port Harcourt, we expect to achieve at least 60 per cent of the capacity production from Port Harcourt. We are hoping that by the end of next year, the rehabilitation will have been completed. Of course, Warri and Kaduna started after Port Harcourt refineries and of course, it is going to progress at a slower pace.

“But I believe that at the end of the year, all the refineries – Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna – will be operating at a certain capacity. I cannot tell you what capacity it will be operating by the time we leave but they will all be at least partially functional and we expect that since governance is a continuum, the next government will take up from wherever we stop and get it to the finishing line.”

While at it, Nigerians can only pray the Port Harcourt snakes didn’t recede into comatose before the end of the completion period.

There is a valid reason for anyone with the hindsight of the volume of money these snakes had consumed over the years to marvel. And when the talk-talk master for the marketers’ association wondered that the Port Harcourt snakes had not produced “one drop of petrol, diesel or kerosene” even after gulping over N100bn, his anger was understandable.

In August 2020, the data from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation showed that all the refineries, with a combined installed capacity of 445,000 barrels per day, were idle for 12 months yet N142bn operating expense was incurred on them. As if that was not enough, in March 2021, the Federal Executive Council in a meeting presided by Baba himself approved the plan by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to rehabilitate the Port Harcourt Refinery with $1.5bn. In naira terms, the official exchange rate of $1.5bn (N379 to $1) repair cost as of then was N568.5bn. The Port Harcourt refinery generated total revenue of N10.33bn from 2015 to 2019 (with zero revenue in 2019), according to audited financial statements but reported a total loss of N229.14bn during the same period. Isn’t that interesting?

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