November 19, (THEWILL) – Nigerians are eagerly awaiting the outcome of President Bola Tinubu’s promise to Nigerians that Port Harcourt Refinery would resume production in December 2023.
The Senate on October 24, constituted an ad-hoc committee to investigate all contracts estimated at over N11.35 trillion awarded for the rehabilitation of the four moribund refineries in the country.
While presenting his motion, Senator Sunday Karimi (Kogi West) averred that from 2010 till date, the Nigerian government had spent N11.35 trillion on contracts to rehabilitate the four refineries, but they are still unproductive.
“Between 2010 to date Nigeria is estimated to have spent N11.35 trillion (N11, 349, 583, 186, 313.40) excluding other cost in other currencies which include $592, 976, 050.00 dollar, 4, 877, 068.47 Euros and 3, 455, 656.93 Pounds, on renovation of refineries, yet they are unproductive,” he said.
In a graphic details that elicited anger and disappointment, the lawmaker said:
“Despite the moribund state of the four refineries, the operating costs of these refineries between 2010 and 2020 is estimated at N4.8 trillion Naira. The refineries are estimated to make a cumulative loss of N1.64 trillion, within four years.
“Concerned that the Federal Government of Nigeria has carried out rehabilitation projects in Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC) over a period of seven (7) years from 2013-2019 at an estimated cost of N12,161,237,811.61 only, in addition, on the 18th March 2021, a rehabilitation contract was executed between NNPC/PHRC and Tenenimont SPA at a Lump Sum of $1,397,000,000.00 only, about N75 billion naira amidst global public criticism.
“Phase 1 of the Project is expected to be completed in 28 Months after the contract, Phase 2 within 24 months and Phase 3 within 44 months of execution. Despite this, the Port Harcourt
“Refinery remains a money pit. Going by projections and representations from NNPCL the renovation works ought to be completed and operations of the Refinery commenced by June 2023.
“Perturbed that in a bid to revitalize the Warri Refinery, the Federal Government has injected huge Public funds into revamping Warri Refinery & Petrochemical Company limited to the tune of over N28, 219, 110, 067.10 between 2014 and 2019.”
The Senate, consequently, constituted a seven-member ad-hoc committee to investigate the matter and to submit their findings to the upper legislative chamber within four weeks – November 21. 2023.
Stakeholders and industry experts have expressed disappointment and furry over the Senate’s latest outing in legislative frivolities called probe. An oil and gas business practitioner, Engr Canice Benjamin, advised the upper legislative chamber to settle down and enjoy their new SUVs cars gifted by the federal government instead of engaging in a “public, dance of shame”.
Engr Benjamin recalled that the Senate had engaged in countless probes of the oil and gas industry as well as the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) without producing any concrete result that can be identified as problem-solving.
Mr Rufai Oseni, a presenter on the Arise Television News ‘The Morning Show’, described the exercise as one that will end the way of the notorious Senate Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) probe.
Basket of probes
The Senate in May 2020 set up a seven-member ad-hoc committee to probe the “financial recklessness” of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC.
The committee was specifically asked to probe the IMC for allegedly squandering N40 billion in three months and seek account for other financial transactions within this period.
The acting Managing Director of NNDC, Prof Daniel Pondei, who collapsed before the television camera while appearing at the Senate in August 2020, was rushed out of the venue of the investigative hearing.
The then Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, now Senate President, however, stayed behind for the probe, which was eventually suspended after the incident. Akpabio’s revelation that the lawmakers were part of the financial rot in NDDC stirred controversies that diverted attention from the purpose of the probe. The exercise died a natural death.
In another incident, the Senate on July 11, 2023 constituted an ad-hoc committee to investigate the fuel subsidy regime of the NNPCL. This followed the adoption of a motion by Patrick Chinwuba (Imo) during plenary.
The motion was tagged “Need to Investigate the Controversial Huge Expenditure on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) under the Subsidy/Under Recovery Regime by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).”
It said the NNPCL, within the period of subsidy exit attempt, substituted the term subsidy with under recovery without any recourse to the National Assembly or supervision by any other arm of the government.
“While NNPCL within ten years, 2006 and 2015, claimed about N170 billion as under-recovery, the same NNPCL within 13 months, January 2018 to January 2019 claimed a whopping sum of N843.121 billion as under-recovery,” the lawmaker said.
THEWILL also recalls that a probe by the Nigerian Senate into whether the state oil firm, NNPC, improperly withdrew money was expanded with the amount under investigation doubling to over $2.2 billion, according to the committee.
The Senate last week voted to probe withdrawals of $1.05 billion by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), from NLNG, a venture owned by the state oil firm and foreign energy companies, without approval.
The committee led by Senator Bassey Akpan, chairman of Senate committee on gas, said on Wednesday it had found more withdrawals in excess of what it set out to investigate.
Akpan asked NNPC and central bank officials to provide documents to back up the withdrawals, carried out at various periods between 2016 to 2018.
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“They, therefore, supported the decision of the Senate to thoroughly investigate the allegations in the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu against the NNPC Group Managing Director, Dr. Maikanti Baru on the awards of the $25billion contracts and new appointments in the national oil company, adding that Nigerians will be waiting to hear the outcome of these sensitive investigations.”
At the inauguration of the 9th Assembly, Ahmed Lawan, the Senate president, made promises to Nigerians, part of which was to make the upper chamber to be more responsive to Nigerians they represent and make the Senate function better.
Lawan had said the 9th Assembly would be different and characterised by fewer controversies and more positivity.
However, the reverse appears to be the case in the last two years he has been in office. The general belief among observers is that the Lawan-led Senate has not done well in this regard.
Presently, public confidence in probes by the Senate is at its lowest ebb. There is the perception among Nigerians that perhaps, the committees’ findings or reports are compromised and hidden from public knowledge by the leadership of the Senate.