President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated a 5,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery, and the groundbreaking for another 45,000 refineries expected to be completed within two years.
Over 2.5 billion litres of petroleum products, and 18, 000 jobs are expected from the plants located in Imo State, and expected to significantly reduce Nigeria’s dependence on imported fuel, and possibly crash pump prices, which have become controversial since the government embraced full deregulation.
The refinery, which was built by an indigenous oil company, Waltersmith Refining & Petrochemical, and Nigerian Local Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), would provide at least 10 per cent required yearly demand for petroleum products in the country when fully completed.
Excited by the development, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), and Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), equally signed an agreement with Waltersmith for the creation of an innovation and industrial park that will spur manufacturing activities in the country.
Nigeria hosts four major refineries with combined capacity of 450,000bpd operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and a fifth (1,000bpd) owned and operated by Niger Delta Petroleum Resources (NDPR). But none can save the country from the huge import bill in excess of N1trillion for petrol as at half year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
At the virtual launch, Buhari said modular refineries were a cardinal part of the roadmap of the current administration to meet local demand of petroleum products in the country.
According to him, there is increased momentum in the rehabilitation of existing refineries, while agenda on collocation and Greenfield refineries remain on track.
The President also stressed the need for Nigeria to export products not only to West Africa countries but globally, and commended Waltersmith and partners for ensuring the completion of the project.
He equally directed all government agencies in the petroleum sector to support the private company, including providing feedstock to the refineries.
Stressing the job creation and economic impact of the project, the President urged local communities to support the project to boost wealth creation.
Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, expressed happiness over the project, saying the initiative is changing the narrative of investment from government-led to private sector-driven economy.
Decrying the poor performance of the existing refineries, Uzodinma noted that the new modular refinery remained a game changer, while assuring adequate security and favourable conditions for investors to operate.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said the project is a testament to the quest to make refined products readily available and affordable in the market, and for gradual reduction of importation into Nigeria.
Admitting that the downstream is facing challenges, he noted that the sector is being sanitised and would continue to attract investors, calling for increased understanding on the need for deregulation, as the government is committed to ensuring sufficient availability of products.
Chairman of Waltersmith, Abdulrazaq Isa, noted that the company is not focusing on refineries alone, but also addressing power challenges for which it has concluded plans to gradually transit into an energy company through the industrial and Innovation Park.
Isa said leading oil firms, including the NNPC, have guaranteed feedstock for the refineries.
The Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mele Kyari, noting that most of the ongoing refinery projects would be completed speedily, stressed the need to add value to crude locally, adding that the Corporation would ensure adequate supply of feedstock to the refineries.
He also canvassed increased partnership with the private sector in achieving set goals.
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