Following the renewed controversies surrounding the increase in the pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit, PMS and subsidy regime in the country, there are indications that the federal government is yet to devise a workable formula for the oil sector of the economy.
Though the federal government assured Nigerians that there is no need to panic over the increase in petrol price last week by some marketers but the situation no doubt has caused many to doubt if all is well in the oil sector and in the nation generally.
However, there are some situations that we can control, but it is sad that some people disgustingly allow them to go on because they are benefiting from it. Take for instance, the situation in the Niger Delta region where God has endowed with so much wealth. The goose that lay the golden egg, yet suffering from abject poverty and squalor in the midst of so much wealth.
The natives in the oil producing communities have been impoverished all these years since crude oil was discovered in Oloibiri in Rivers state. The vast swamp land and creeks where oil exploitation has been carried out by multinational oil companies are no more the same. The farming and fishing communities have been left desolate. Their rivers are polluted and vegetation destroyed and nothing good can come out of the area.
We witnessed the emergence of vibrant young men as militants agitating for resource control. They were later pacified by the government after being settled with amnesty. But this has not however improved the plight of the natives whose conditions still remain pathetic.
This situation amongst others led to the setting up of illegal refineries by the natives in the creeks of the Niger Delta, using the crude stolen from vandalized pipelines in the region. For the past three decades, the discoveries of illegal refineries have been on the increase, an indication that for as long as the nation’s refineries cannot be fully operational, such illegal outfits will continue to thrive.
The irony is that even when we boast of being an oil producing nation, we still have to depend on imported refined oil products for local consumption, because our refineries are not functioning the way they should.
But some Nigerians like Aliko Dangote have been able to build refineries successfully and the nations refineries in Warri, Portharcourt and Kaduna are yet to function at full capacity in spite of the several billions of Naira sunk into turn around maintenance in the past years.
Investigations have revealed that there are illegal refineries all over the place refining products and they are thriving well even though their methods may be crude. How can we possibly allow our refineries not to function optimally?
It is time we ask ourselves what is the problem or who is the cause of our failure to have refineries functioning in full capacity and why do we still have to depend on imported refined products when we can conveniently refine our God gifted crude.
The National Petroleum Investment Management Services, NAPIMS, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC invested N21.47 billion to rehabilitate the nations refineries, the Nigeria –Morocco gas pipeline and oil search in the frontier basin among others in January 2021.
It was also disclosed in its February presentation to the Federation Account Allocation Committee, FAAC that NAPIMS mentioned the National Domestic Gas Development, Gas infrastructure Development, Renewable Energy Development, Crude oil Pre-Export inspection Agency expenses and pre-export financing as some of the projects funded during the period.
Interestingly, the report which disclosed that in January 2021, rehabilitation of the refineries gulped N8.33 billion, pre-export financing received N5 billion, National Domestic Gas Devt-N3.17 billion and Gas Infrastructure Development –N2.39 billion added that the Frontier Exploration Services which also involves the search for hydrocarbons in inland basins especially in the north, received N1.96 billion funding from NAPIMS, Crude oil Pre- Export inspection Agency Expenses and pre-export financing received N402. 69 million, Renewable Energy Devt financing gulped N119.83 million while N83.33 million financing was provided for the Nigeria –Morocco pipeline.
In December, NAPIMS had disclosed that it spent a total of N20 .23 bn on these projects, with N8.33bn spent on the rehabilitation of the country’s refineries, N4. 19 bn and N3.17bn spent on National Domestic Gas Devt, Gas infrastructure Devt respectively, while N2. 47 bn and N2.08 bn were spent on pre-export financing and Frontier Exploration Services respectively.
All these expenditure on the refineries rehabilitation, oil search, pipeline to other nations, and export of crude expenses and others in the last three months alone gulped N21 billion and this has been the trend for decades now and yet our refineries cannot produce refined product for domestic use.
Nigerians will continue to bear the burden placed on them by the government inability to contend with the situation they have found themselves today. The Department of Petroleum Resources have to intensify its surveillance to ensure compliance with the approved pump price for the Premium Motor Spirit even though the government denied the increment of petrol to N212 per liter which some persons were made to buy the product last week.
It is however, not too certain if all the marketers will revert to the old price regime of between N162 to 165 per liter, but the truth must be told all is not well in the oil sector if so much can be expended and yet nothing to show for it rather than making some persons feed fat at the expense of the people. There is no reason why our refineries cannot operate successfully and stop importation of refined products.
Eubaldus Enahoro is Editor of The Nigerian Observer.