Senate sets up committee on Port Harcourt refinery

By Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

Nigeria's Senate

Nigeria’s Senate has set up an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the alleged non-transparent transactions of the planned concession of the Port Harcourt Refinery to the Italian oil giant AGIP/ENI and Oando Plc, to construct a $15billion refinery in the Niger Delta region by the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

The seven man committee is to be chaired by Senator Abubakar Kyari, while Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu is to serve as the Vice Chairman.

Other members of the ad-committee are, Senators Dino Melaye, Sabo Mohammed, Aliyu Wamakko, Matthew Uroghide, and Duro Faseyi.

These were part of Senate’s resolution on Tuesday, following a motion on the ‘Non-transparent transactions’.

The motion was sponsored by Senator Sabo Mohammed representing Jigawa South Senatorial district.

In the other resolutions, the Senate also urged the Federal Ministry of petroleum resources to halt all processes and transactions relating to the planned concession until the Committee submits its report.

Leading the debate on the motion, Senator Mohammed noted that the major stakeholders such as the Bureau of Public Enterprises, (BPE) empowered by law to conduct such exercise and the Labour Unions were not aware of the deal.

The deal is supposed to be signed officially by July this year.

According to him, “while government resolve to increase local refining capacity is laudable and should be applauded by all Nigerians, the observance of corporate governance principles and the country’s extant laws must be followed to the letter.’’

Senator Mohammed said that “It is not yet clear if the new arrangement is a concession agreement or an agreement to build a new refinery, the confusion became obvious following the disclosure on May 11, 2017 by the Chief Executive Officer of Oando Plc on the floor of the Nigeria Stock Exchange that the group had received government’s approval to repair, operate and maintain the Port Harcourt Refinery Company with their partner, Agip.”

According to him, “in such transactions, the best practice is to select partners through open and competitive bids, that is, prepare the business for sale, market the business, buyers’ selection and close the transaction. Any exclusive that does not follow the above procedure hatched in the dark without the knowledge and participation of relevant stakeholders tend to lead to sub-optimal outcomes for the seller (in this case the Nigerian government).”

Senator Mohammed recalled that the then Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu had declared that by the end of 2015, the Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna Refineries would be working at 90 per cent, thus reducing importation and the subsidy controversies.

However, up till now in 2017, the refineries were yet to be fixed and could not even produce at 50 per cent.

Contributing to the debate, Senator Dino Melaye urged the Senate “to rise and stop another massive corruption that is about to take place on the refinery, just as it happened in the power sector when Power Holding Company of Nigeria was sold to the private sector without any result till date.”

Planned action on the refinery condemned
Also contributing, Senator Kabiru Gaya condemned the Nigerian government’s planned action on the refinery.

He advised that it was better to build new refineries than planning to take away the Port Harcourt Refinery like it did to Warri and Kaduna that have not been functioning for years.

Voice of Nigeria reports that government recently entered into an agreement with AGIP/ENI to construct the refinery, a deal which also include the investment by Agip in a power plant with the Italian company assisting Nigeria in the repair of the Port Harcourt Refinery.

The agreement is part of government’s plan to increase capacity for local production and consumption of petroleum products with the aim of ending fuel importation.

Two bills passed
In other developments, the Senate also on Tuesday passed the Nigeria Football Federation Bill 2017, sponsored by Senator Obinna Ogba. The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between Nigeria and other Foreign States Bill, 2017 was also passed.

 

Mercy Chukwudiebere