Monday, 24 August 2015

AS THE REFINERIES RETURN


With the reports of reactivation of local refineries, Nigerians, who have lost all hope and succumbed to a fraudulent petroleum products importation regime and subsidy claims that have almost bled the economy to death, have every reason to cheer.

More cheering is the news that the refineries are projected to hit their near-installed capacities in a couple of months. Considering the economic gains from this and in the light of more than a decade of facility waste following fitful operations, this is laudable. And from indications, the portents are that the refineries can and would be run profitably.

The journey to Nigeria’s sorry pass over the refineries has been a long sad one in which a nation built for its future with one hand and tears it down with the other. Corruption, greed, inept management, poor political leadership and many other ills combined to truncate what was designed as a great future and a potentially great country into a beggar.

The Port Harcourt refinery, one of those coming on stream now was denied regular maintenance over the years and was in such a deplorable condition that to get back it had to be through the “gradual energizing of component units,” according to experts. In essence, the damage was so enormous and it would require more care in handling, and extra funds that could have been saved with scheduled maintenance is being spent to bring back that facility.

This notwithstanding, the current rehabilitation efforts should be sustained for further breakthrough as sustainability is the key to the refineries’ viability. Nothing must ever stand in the way of their continuous run while conscious official effort is made to establish higher capacity refineries which would provide for multi-dimensional layers of job creation and business opportunities.

Also, this would encourage the completion of other private refineries by indigenous investors in Lekki, Lagos. It is completely against all reason for an oil- producing country to find itself in such a dire situation of complete reliance on importation of products for about a decade. There is no better way to advertise leadership deficit and admit, even celebrate, the triumph of buccaneers whose interest in the country’s economic survival is nil.
Never again must Nigerians witness the inglorious era of lack amid plenty, where unscrupulous persons leverage their connection to those in power to continuously milk the nation while causing misery for fellow citizens.

With the once-moribund Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC) and the Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company (WRPC) where improved maintenance activities are yielding salutary results, Nigeria’s story appears to be changing for the better. PHRC could be operating at 90 per cent capacity and above by the first quarter of 2016 with the completion of the current rehabilitation. In particular, it is also reassuring that the major overhaul is being facilitated by competent in-house human capacity and indigenous contractors.

Interestingly, reports said some of the already overhauled facilities which have ramped up production to the current 60 per cent capacity are ready for commissioning in a few weeks.
The laudable efforts of the engineers should be an inspiration for further progress for Nigerians in the oil industry. The WRPC, commissioned in 1978 and upgraded in 1987, is reportedly at 50 per cent production capacity which yields about 4,612,500 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) per day.

Indeed, Warri refinery is regaining its status as the hub of economic activities in Warri and environs with the return of the refinery. At installed capacity, it could do more. This capacity, taken along PHRC’s details and the contribution from the Kaduna Petroleum Refining Company (KPRC) which is also receiving attention would go a long way to ameliorate the damage done to Nigeria over the years. With presumed sound management and transparency in the industry which President President Buhari is fighting to enthrone, the gap between demand and supply can then be bridged.

Only transparent crude oil swap deals that will substantially reduce or totally eliminate subsidy calls by import-obsessed marketers should be allowed. One other advantage is that ancillary businesses will spring up in tandem with the reactivation of the complexes. For instance, the petrochemical plants would be able to address production of fertilizer and raw materials for plastic manufacturing and related sectors.

The benefits of a sustained refinery run are indeed limitless. Apparently, the challenges in the industry are daunting as well as multi-dimensional, including for instance engineering control and operations. That, however, cannot and should not be a hindrance to seamless operations if the tasks are properly handled by the right personnel. Of course, sabotage in the system is a possibility but could also be handled. Again, there has always been the challenge of mustering the political will to allocate enough crude to the refineries because preference had always been for shady oil swap deals for selfish interests.

The best technocrats in competence and integrity are needed who would not succumb to temptations to manipulate the system. They can be found among Nigerian engineers who must be so encouraged or challenged to give their best.No self-respecting nation should put its fate in the hands of foreigners in many sectors even when local experts or professionals are available.

Thousands of Nigerian professionals are making waves in their assignments on the global stage – medicine, engineering, sciences, the arts and more – and are being recognised regularly for their exploits or contributions. The atmosphere at home should also be made more conducive for many others to excel. Current developments on the refineries point to a Nigeria finding its bearing and ready to take the right steps to its glorious destiny. This forward movement must be sustained. (Guardian)