Senate moves to ascertain status of modular refineries

The Senate on Tuesday resolved to ascertain the status of refineries in the country including the recently licensed modular refineries.

The upper legislative Parliament assigned the task to its yet to be constituted Petroleum Committee on downstream and Upstream to be briefed by the Ministry of Petroleum and the Nigerian  National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC,) on the matter when invited.

The Senate resolution culminated the debate of a motion by Sen. Rose Oko (Cross River North) on a motion entitled, Existing Petroleum Subsidy: Ensuring  Self -Sufficiency in Domestic Refining of Petroleum Products.

The motion had  42 other senators as sponsors.

Speaking on the motion at plenary, Okoh said although Nigeria produces 1.7million barrels of crude oil per day the nation’s moribund refineries can barely make do with very little refining capacity.

She said the nation imports roughly 90 per cent of its fuel, thus undermining the chances of the citizens to make much of the benefits accruing to oil-producing nations from high crude prices.

She said despite the resources expended on turn around maintenance, none of the four NNPC’s refineries currently functions at 50, per cent of their combined capacity of 445,000 barrels per day.

She said the objectives of modular refineries was to overcome the huge capital requirement that impedes establishment and maintenance of large scale refineries.

This, she said would ensure self-sufficiency in the production and supply of petroleum products.

She said data from the Department of Petroleum Resources(DPR) website had indicated that a total of 633,000 barrels per day refining capacity had already been lost due to the expiration of licenses of both conventional and modular refinery projects.

Oko, who also spoke on the fuel subsidy said more than 160 million dollars was spent on subsidy in early 2017.

She said Nigeria had introduced petroleum subsidy in the 1980s as a temple art measure to strengthen local refining industry and improve product affordability and domestic consumption.

She said there was no form of technical and financial aid for refinery license holders to ensure the refineries become operational.

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Senators who supported the motion include Sen. Barau Jibril, Thompson Sekibo, Ifeanyi Uba, Tolu Odeniyi, pushing the removal of subsidy but for Ali Ndume.

Tolu Odebiyi anchored his argument for the removal of subsidy on the Senate need to raise the fund for implementation of the new minimum wage.

“Nigeria spent about N5 billion on subsidy, we have a situation where we want to pay N30,000 as minimum wage. We may not have a choice than to remove subsidy. I think we need to look at the policy and the government should take a clear position.”

Senator Aliyu Ndume made it clear that he was not part of any move to remove subsidy which is the only means the poor benefits from the government.

His words: “I don’t support removal, but we should look at the efficiency of the refineries. The refineries have been there and if they are good enough it will go a long way.

“It is the law of demand and supply. If the products are sourced locally, the price will go down. If they work optimally, what will be the effect on the importation,” Ndume said.

He asked the Senate to find out from those issued licenses to construct refineries to explain the matter.

According to him,  The Senate Committee must ensure that they invite NNPC and find out why the refineries aren’t working.

In his remark President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan said the motion was designed to ensure that the 43 licensed modular refineries became operational.

He said there was a need to support them to become active.

He said the senate must make it a duty to ensure the establishment of the modular refineries.

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