Modular Refineries And N’Delta Economy

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The Federal Government recently licensed some investors to establish modular refineries in Nigeria. This is in keeping with its promise to allow for more private investor participation in the ownership and operation of refineries, especially in the Niger Delta region, as a way to curbing illegal refining and shortage of petroleum products in the country.
Only a few weeks ago, former President Olusegun Obasanjo performed the ground breaking ceremony of one of such refineries in Bayelsa State, one of the heartlands of the Niger Delta region. There are also indications that another modular refinery would take off soon in Delta State, while similar initiative is being considered in Abia State.
The Tide views these developments as heartwarming and a pointer to the fact that the Niger Delta region would soon shed the toga of a sleeping stakeholder in its God-given natural resources and become an active player.
This is an opportunity that must not be allowed to pass by in the Niger Delta region. It is high time private investors in the region rose up and took advantage of the opportunity.
Essentially, we expect Rivers State to play a leading role in the modular refinery project. Our position is predicated on the fact that the state remains the hub of oil and gas industry in Nigeria. The establishment of modular refineries in the state will, no doubt, have positive multiplier effects on the economy and the people. Besides providing jobs and boosting rural economy, the worrisome issue of black market and activities of illegal refinery, also known as “kpofire” operators, which have been ravaging the environment, would be minimised. Moreso, the soot menace in the state, which is part of the fallout of illegal refining activities, and its inherent health dangers, would be curbed to a large extent.
We, therefore, urge private investors to interface with the Rivers State Government with a view to making the state a major player in realising the vision of the modular refinery policy.
It would be recalled that the then state government under the leadership of Dr. Peter Odili cogitated the idea of establishing a Rivers State-owned refinery which, unfortunately, the succeeding administration of Rotimi Amaechi jettisoned. The modular refinery project therefore provides the state another window to actualise that dream.
We recall that the present administration led by Governor Nyesom Wike has, in several fora assured investors of an enabling environment for investments to thrive. We believe that investors can take advantage of the current policies of government to float the modular refineries in the state.
The refineries if put in place will certainly contribute to ameliorate the incessant fuel scarcity and its attendant hardship on the people.
We believe also that the refineries will curtail the practice of sending the country’s crude abroad for refining, only to spend scarce resources to import the refined products back to the country. Moreso, the money being spent on the existing refineners without commensurate output could be invested in other areas that would benefit the economy better.
While we encourage various state governments, particularly, those in the Niger Delta region to embrace the initiative, it must not be an opportunity to embark on a project that would only be abandoned half way. Care must be taken to ensure that such refinery project must be one with world standard quality to be handled by reputable contractors with best practices.
The Tide thinks that deliberate efforts should be made to identify most of the youth involved in illegal refining of petroleum products and perhaps, horn their skills further to contribute legally and meaningfully to the economy through the modular refinery initiative.
However, a note of caution must be sounded here. The Federal Government, in implementing the policy, must ensure that the modular refinery licences are issued to individuals or outfits with the capability and good intention for investment. The initiative of modular refinery must neither be politicised nor allowed to die a premature death.