Tuesday, 8 September 2015

‘Without sale of refineries we will not make any headway’

The announcement by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, that the nation’s four refineries would not be sold, has continued to draw knocks, as well as commendations from different strata of the country’s economy. A former Senate Committee Chairman on Petroleum Resources, Senator Lee Maeba, insisted that government is not in a position to run the refineries efficiently.

According to him, “Government does not run refineries anywhere in the world. For the eight years I was in the Petroleum Committee of the Senate, I said that without the sale of the refineries we will not make any headway in the industry.  “Have we been ever told how much government has made from the refineries all this while? We have always been regaled with the issue of subsidy. In fact, by now, we should be talking of having more refineries,” he said.

On the unbundling of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, Maeba said that the best measure to take is deregulation, as the private sector is in the best position to run the business of petroleum products.

Also commenting, former Board Chairman, Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, NEITI, Mr. Ledum Mitee, would rather the government opted for commercialisation of the refineries, instead of privatisation due to distortions peculiar to Nigeria in the privatisation of government assets.

“There is always a clear distinction that is almost always distorted in the Nigerian situation between commercialisation and privatisation of public assets. When it comes to the refineries, I would always go for commercialisation which most often times, approximates in practical terms to giving our common wealth to cronies at ridiculous prices

“As I always ask rhetorically to the assertion that these refineries cannot be run profitably or viably unless sold, are those buying them going to run them on charity?” he asked. As regards the unbundling of PPMC, Mitee said that there is always unanimity of views that NNPC needs to be unbundled.

He said: “I think the current GMD is right in giving priority attention to that process. However, I am sure that the process of NNPC reform should be mainly driven by NNPC itself “I would also add that instead of one PIB, we should be looking at a couple of laws so that needed reforms are not held down by disagreements on one area of proposed reform.

For the President, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Comrade Igwe Achese, the decision to hold on to the refineries is a wise one. “We have often said that the refineries are not for sale. We support privatisation which means bringing in partners. NNPC’s refineries are national assets that should not be mortgaged, but we support the removal of subsidy,” he said.

As regards the unbundling of PPMC, the NUPENG President said, “It is a welcome development. It will checkmate corruption, inefficiency and fraud.”