Published On: Tue, Feb 1st, 2022

Why The Nation Needs Private Petroleum Refinery In N’Delta?

 

By Prof Hope Eghagha

Lagos February 1st (urhobotoday)-There is need for a private refinery in the Niger Delta. The nation needs a private petroleum refinery in the Niger Delta. In the interest of the nation and the region, a private refinery is needed in the Niger Delta to create employment and also tap into the main natural resources of the zone.

The Niger Delta requires a private refinery for both economic and political reasons. It will be an act of self-affirmation because of the shoddy treatment which the federal authorities give the oil-bearing, long-suffering region. This is political. A massive petroleum refinery employing thousands of workers will boost the economy of the region. This is economic. Where are the big boys from the Niger Delta? This is a challenge to them. It is also a challenge to the political leaders of the region. Let them put together, or create a platform for a consortium of businessmen to build a refinery that will process crude and go into petrochemicals. Alternatively, one big businessman backed, by the leaders of the region, should throw his hat into the ring. What is so difficult about this?

It is my considered view that leaders from different groups in the Niger Delta must consciously take decisions about the fate of their people, about education, transportation, agriculture, IT, and petroleum and gas. To achieve this, political leaders hold the ace. They have the contacts and reach to make things happen. They understand the terrain. They do not harbor the naivety of persons who have not been in government about how government functions in Nigeria. But they need intellectuals, especially public intellectuals to serve as a Think Tank for developing the region. It should be clear that individual survival cannot be guaranteed in a fragmented society, a society where the ordinary people cannot guarantee ordinary meals for months on end. For a legion of reasons therefore, political leaders of the region should think The Region and Think Nigeria as a development strategy, a strategy that the individual governors should key into.

Of course we recognize the strategic role which the federal authorities play in the approval process, in granting access to crude oil after completing the refinery. Would there be concessions on getting crude? Would there be a concession on buying at the international rate? Would there be a guarantee that the local communities would not interfere with building and operations? A typical businessman would think the process through and decide whether the fight and returns would be worth the hassles. But a functional refinery in the Niger Delta is a question of collective survival through recognizing a strategic interest.

Nearness to raw material has been advanced as one of the factors determining location of industries. It is true that in the modern age, crude oil could be piped across thousands of kilometres. For example, there are twelve pipelines that deliver natural gas from Russia to Europe; three of which are direct to Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. The Nord Stream is a system ‘off offshore natural gas pipelines in Europe, running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany’. Of course, this has an effect on installation and pricing of the product. There are pipes carrying crude in ‘the 16/24-inch, 674-kilometre Escravos-Warri-Kaduna Pipeline to service two of Nigeria’s major oil refineries at Warri and Kaduna’. Pause for a while and work out the cost of transporting crude to the long distance that is Kaduna or Lagos.

Nearness to raw material and the fact that the Niger Delta produces the oil for Nigeria compel the establishment of a giant refinery in the region. The private effort in the Lekki area of Lagos is a milestone. But as usual, oil-bearing Niger Delta will emerge a distant 10th position in terms of social, economic, political, cultural, and employment benefits of a product that is in the belly of their earth. This is because of the prevailing notion that OUR OIL IS THEIRS but THEIR RESOURCES ARE NOT OURS. It is a narrative that is hinged on injustice and many years of political dominance. But nobody dominates and exploits no one group dominates and exploits another perpetually. When the time to break out comes, the will to do so will spring from the most unlikely regions of the psyche.

There are men and women with the financial muscle to do the job. They need the motivation. The Niger Delta is rich in resources, human and natural. There are millions of young talents searching for an avenue to express their skills and competence and catch the train of career development and growth. They need the enabling environment. They need mentoring. They need industries. One of the biggest industries that could be located there with subsidiaries in all the Niger Delta states is oil and gas. In my short interaction with Ambassador Joe Keshi of and through BRACED Commission, all we need now is the will. A refinery that will also make an inroad into gas production is highly desirable and needed. Funding should be a joint affair between big businessmen, the banks and the sub-national governments of the region.

Oil was discovered in Oloibiri currently located in Bayelsa State in commercial quantity in 1958. That community cannot boast of any significant gains from the wealth in its belly. It is an abandoned village with a decimated aquatic life. It is the same story that affects the entire region. If the federal government refuses to plan for the people whose soil produces oil, the onus is on leaders of the region to take their destiny into their hands. Of course we know that oil as a source of energy is fast losing its relevance with the world’s attention being focused on alternative sources of less-harmful energy. But it is inconceivable that all the derivatives of crude would simply vanish in fifty or more years. The truth is that the region ought to have built its own refinery decades ago. Yet, it is not too late to rapidly and massively utilize the God-given resources of the region by building a private refinery.

Finally, I call on leaders in the region to summon the will and mobilize all resources to ensure that the region builds its own refinery and move on to harnessing the gas in the land both for export and local consumption. The multiplier effect will be a life saver in the region.

 

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