The House of Representatives has mandated its committees on Petroleum to investigate the health state of the nation’s refineries and advise it on whether to sanction subsidy removal and privatisation of the ailing refineries or not.
The House ordered the probe following its concerns over the huge funds already sunk into Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of four national refineries without improved performance and the large chunk of public funds being devoted for the controversial fuel subsidy program.
The resolution followed a motion by Omeregie Ogbeide-Ihama (PDP Edo), entitled: “Call for the discontinuance of the operations of Nigeria’s refineries due to heavy debts incurred by the refineries and the need for the Federal Government to privatise the refineries.”
The lawmaker had in his presentation urged the Federal Government to privatise the refineries because they were a drain pipe on the country’s finances.
He said Nigeria should not continue to spend heavily on subsidy and maintain ineffective refineries. The Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Emmanuel Kachikwu, he recalled, had said government-owned refineries managed by the NNPC were not making profit.
His words: “The Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company, Port Harcourt Refining Company and Warri Refining Company were reported by the NNPC to have incurred debts amounting to about N120.7 billion in August and September, 2015.
“While their revenue in August was N146.617 billion, their expenditure was N207.287 billion in September. The revenue generated by the refineries was N122.514 billion and the expenditure was pegged at N171.914 billion .”
Members supported the motion and agreed that the country was spending unnecessary huge funds on the refineries. They called for their privatisation as well as the stoppage of the subsidy regime.
Leo Ogor, Minority leader agreed with the motion, saying: “The refineries have become a major drainpipe. This is the truth. We said government has no business with business. There is no country in the world that spends this kind of money on financing other countries’ imports. It does not make sense to me.
“The subsidy money is borrowed and we’re going to continue to import. This money can be useful in the education and health sectors. We will save scarce foreign exchange. We should put this challenge behind us.”
However, Majority leader Femi Gbajabiamila, while agreeing with the call for privatisation of the refineries, cautioned his colleagues on the dangers of wrong timing.
“ Privatisation of the refineries and removal of subsidy will skyrocket the price for the common man,” he warned.
At this point, the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, joined in and directed the committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream/Downstream) to probe the state of the nation’s refineries.
The committees have four weeks to report to the House.
By Olisemeka Obeche