GMD of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru (right) signing a deal on Alternative Financing of the Sonam Project (Project Falcon) in London last week, while Jefferey Ewing Managing Director and Chairman Chevron Nigeria Limited signed on behalf of his company. The Sonam Project, a Joint Venture is expected to develop incremental proven oil reserves of 211mmbbls and proven gas reserves of 1.9Tcf within OMLs 90 & 91.
Even though the Federal Government has consistently assured Nigerians that the country will stop importing refined petroleum products by 2019, the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has expressed doubt at the possibility of the idea.Minister of State for Petroleum Resources; Ibe Kachikwu, who visited the Dangote oil refinery site at Lekki Free Trade Zone, in Lagos last week equally appealed to the business mogul, Aliko Dangote to expedite action on the ongoing construction of the refinery in order to meet the 2019 expectation date for its delivery.
However, speaking with Shipping Position Daily in Lagos last week, South West Chairman of NUPENG; Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo has said that 2019 is not feasible. He said that going by what the country has on ground, it would be impossible to meet the daily consumption demand of 200million Nigerians.According to him, other than the Dangote Refinery which is still under construction,there is nothing to show that Nigeria is truly ready to stop importation. He noted that it has been difficult for the government to keep the nations refineries working at optimal capacity in line with demands, and that the entire NNPC depots are not supplying optimally. Korodo said “Going by what we have on ground today, it is impossible to stop importation of petroleum products by 2019, but I don't know what they have in mind before coming up with this policy, maybe they want to open up the entire depot to start loading and ensure that our local production is increased”“The government has the yam and the knife, and the stomach also belongs to them. If they really want to turn things around, it is within their powers to do so and if they want to do otherwise, they are in the best position” he added.During the visit to Dangote refinery last week, Kachikwu had stated that the federal government is relying heavily on the Dangote Refinery to fulfill its promise to Nigerians to end fuel importation by December 2019.He said the government is ready to play its part as a responsible government to assist in making sure the project is completed before the scheduled date.The minister, who said he was overwhelmed by the dimension of the project, explained that the present government had always believed that the private sector holds the ace in the industrialisation efforts of the government and noted that the belief has been reinforced by what Dangote Group is doing.He said: "It is good to say that private sector is the answer to Nigeria's problems with a project as big as this. The challenge I will give you today is that of time; I see your time for completion is 2019 December, but I am sure you will understand my greed if I tell you that the refinery component of this project should come earlier than the set date."I have made very firm commitment to Nigerians that I must stop the importation of petroleum products by 2019 and I am going to keep to it. It is absolutely important that we do this early and given the feat that we have achieved in terms of speed of construction and I urge you to do all within you to achieve its completion before the due date."I am sure His Excellency President Buhari will be absolutely enthused if he were to find himself, not only crystallizing the policy position we have taken so far, but also coming here himself to come and open a facility as big as this before the end of his first term. Whatever configurations your engineers have come up with, I urge that they go back to the drawing board and get me my refined products before your said date."In his response to the government's challenge, Mr. Dangote said he has accepted the challenge and would do all possible to achieve the feat.He added that, "on the honourable minister's challenge, we are going to make it by the grace of God. I am sure the minister will support us to make sure that we meet his challenge."What the minister is trying to do is the best so far for our country, his own version is that Nigeria should not think of exporting crude; you know the problem we have in Africa is that we only export raw materials, not finished goods, so he is saying that, look, we should all do this by adding value and I pray that even at 2.5 million barrels, we should not export much, in terms of the crude."We will go back and see what to do to make this happen by fast tracking our processes since the Minister has assured of government's cooperation and support".