Nigerians this morning heaved sighs of relief and expressed happiness at the news that the Port Harcourt Refining Company Limited in Rivers State, southern Nigeria, would commence operation two weeks from now.
The announcement was made Thursday by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Joseph Dawha, in Abuja after a tour of some filling stations in the country’s capital city.
He said the other three refineries in the country are undergoing renovation.
If fully operational, the four refineries have a capacity to refine 445,000 barrels per day while one of the refineries in Port Harcourt has a refining capacity for about 5 million litres a day.
Many Nigerians said this development would end the domination of oil cabal in the country who have often frustrated attempts to make the refineries work.
Rights activist, Biodun Showunmi, told P.M.NEWS that Nigerians had always clamoured for the refineries to start working so as to reduce the fraudulent dependence on importation of refined products.
Noting that since Buhari was sworn in, things have begun to take shape in the country, Showunmi said it would reduce fuel importation, while appealing for more refineries to be built.
He also demanded for a proper investigation of the reasons why despite various turn-around maintenance in the past, the refineries had not worked.
Festus Keyamo, a Nigerian lawyer and activist, said he hopes that the refinery would work at, at least, 90 percent capacity and be the beginning of a comprehensive turn-around of the others.
“This is what Nigerians have been praying for. There would be no more issues of subsidy and deregulation. We cannot be producing crude oil and be importing refined products,” he said.
The Managing Director of 247 Systems Limited and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Tom Aipoh, told P.M.NEWS that it was a good omen that the country was getting it right.
He, however, expressed doubt, saying the NNPC had always told Nigerians about turn-around maintenance in the past with nothing to show for it.
He also wondered if the NNPC had removed the impediments to the smooth operation of the refineries in the country, noting that there had always been issues relating to some cabal that had ensured the refineries did not work.
Barrister Allens Agbaka, a Lagoss-based lawyer, said it is one thing making announcements and the other is realising them.
He said it is not difficult refining products, as seen in the illegal refineries often established by militants, but that there had been a cabal holding the country hostage.
He said he was happy that Buhari is aware of the challenges in the sector having been a stakeholder in the sector.
“The era of subsidy which is a fraud and a scheme to favour some political associates who bankkroll elections is almost gone,” he said.
Dr. Ayo Olowe, the chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities, University of Lagos chapter, described it as a step in the right direction, adding that it would solve a lot of other problems facing the country.
Wale Ogunade of the Voters Awareness Initiative, also said he was waiting to see the refinery commence full operation to believe, owing to the antecedents of the NNPC which may just be playing to the gallery because President Muhammadu Buhari is now in power.
The NNPC Group MD had said: “the Port Harcourt refinery, which has reached an advanced stage, will start receiving crude by end of this month and then of course will start contributing to the available products in the country.
“At the end of the target 18 months, most of the refineries would have been rehabilitated to such level where they can actually process crude optimally to make contributions to the availability of products in the country.