Former President Obasanjo Contradicts President Tinubu: Says Nigeria’s Refineries Will Never Work

Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria's longest serving ruler was Head of State of Nigeria from 1976-1979 and civilianpresident of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007.

Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo says he does not believe the four Nigerian refineries will ever work again as long as they are left in the hands of government.

Obasanjo spoke during an interview with pressmen over the weekend.

Currently, Nigeria has four moribund oil refineries, two in Port Harcourt and one each in Warri and Kaduna built in the 1970s and 80s. The refineries are unable to refine oil for at least two decades now.

President Bola Tinubu, desperate to douse confrontation with Labour unions and avert nationwide protests in the wake of his abrupt end of subsidy on fuel imports in June, claimed then that, “Port Harcourt refineries will start production by December 2023 after the completion of the ongoing rehabilitation contract between NNPCL and Italian firm, Maire Tecnimont SpA.”

But Obasanjo, Nigeria’s longest-serving head of state refuted it this weekend, saying, “They will not work as long as the government is keeping hold of them”.

Someone told me Tinubu said refineries would work by December. I told the person the refineries would not work. This is based on the information I received from Shell when I was the president“.

When I was president, I invited Shell to a meeting. I told them I wanted to hand over the refineries for them to help us run. They bluntly told me they would not. I was shocked”.

He claimed the Shell boss in a private chat gave him four reasons his company was uninterested in Nigeria’s refineries. “One, Shell makes its money from upstream and that is where its interest lies. Two, he said they only do downstream or retail as a matter of service. Three, he said our refineries would be bad business for them, and that globally, companies are going for bigger refineries because of the economics of refineries. Fourth, he said there is too much corruption in refineries”.

The ex-president then heaped the blame on another ex-president and his successor, Umaru Yar’Adua. ”I had virtually given up hope on the refineries when God did a miracle. Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola approached me and said they would be interested in buying two of the four refineries. They said they would buy 51 per cent stake in Port Harcourt and Kaduna. I was over the moon. I said, finally, this burden would be taken off the neck of the government. They offered $761 million and paid in two instalments. Unfortunately, Umaru (President Yar’Adua) cancelled the sale and returned the refineries to NNPC”.

Every administration after ex-President Obasanjo appears to have politicized the refinery turnaround maintenance which has so far gulped over N11 trillion in the last 10 years but with refining production well below capacity if there was any production at all.

Nigeria – the sixth largest oil producer in OPEC – has been subsidizing her fuel imports to meet domestic demands. The subsidy regime itself have gained notoriety as a chief source of government sleaze and corruption in the last decade.

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