The Minority Caucus in Nigeria’s House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected the proposed $1.5 billion approval for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery, describing the figure as ‘outrageous and heavily inflated’.
The caucus reached this conclusion after a thorough evaluation of the proposal and demanded an immediate review of the cost. This position was contained in a statement issued by the Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, entitled ‘Reps Minority Caucus Demands Review of $1.5bn for Port Harcourt Refinery Rehabilitation.’
A critical cost analysis of the project indicates “a huge scam and a ploy by unscrupulous elements to hide under the guise of rehabilitation of the refinery to siphon public funds,” the group said, adding that the project could be transparently executed at a far lesser amount.
This came as a coalition of ex-militant leaders and peace advocacy groups from the nine states of Niger Delta under the auspices of Niger Delta Advocate for Peace and Good Governance (NDAPGG) kicked against opponents of the $1.5 billion contract for the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt Refinery, saying it was a commendable and practical investment.
Self-styled “General” Fiawei Pathfinder and other leaders of the group, in a statement after an enlarged meeting at Warri, Delta State, said: “We oppose critics who are speaking against the money approved for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery, the venture is worth it based on the quality of job the contractor will carry out in four phases, and also the expertise that would come to play with modern technology replacing the old to enhance greater productivity that would revamp total deregulation of the downstream sector and to boost the economy of the country.
“The decision to approve rehabilitation work on the refinery is a further confirmation of the massive infrastructural reforms and the transparent policy framework ongoing in the oil and gas sector and deliberate measure by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to create jobs, empower the youths of the region and create closer participation of the region in the oil and gas sector.
“The oil and gas sector under the leadership of President Buhari and minister of petroleum has impacted on the lives of Nigerians within this short period.
“NDAPGG and other groups have come together and agreed to back the minister for all the reforms and the excellent policy frameworks he has embarked upon in the oil and gas industry, including the recent approval of $1.5 billion rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery project.
“This was a unanimous decision by ex-militants leaders and peace advocate groups in the Niger Delta region after a crucial meeting that was conveyed in Warri, Delta State to deliberate on issues contributing to the underdevelopment of the Niger Delta region, more especially the oil and gas exploration activities in the region.”
Meanwhile, the opposition lawmakers explained that while it was in support of any genuine effort to bridge the energy deficit in Nigeria, such should not be used as a ploy by corrupt individuals to fleece the nation.
The lawmakers said, “this over-bloated $1.5bn cost has again brought to the fore the prevailing unpatriotic proclivity of treasury looting and criminal diversion of public funds through inflated contracts by officials of government for their selfish interests.
“It is completely unexplainable that the sum of $1.5bn, belonging to Nigerians, is to be funneled towards the rehabilitation of a non-profitable refinery, which has already been slated to be handed over to private hands. As lawmakers, we firmly reject this attempt to use the refineries to further defraud our nation.
“In that regard, our caucus demands an immediate review of the project on a transparent and competitive cost template, while the billions of naira that would be recovered from the surplus, should be directed towards other areas of our national energy need.
“Furthermore, the minority caucus calls for immediate decisive steps towards providing required incentives to private organisations who have shown manifest interest in establishing refineries in our country, as a sure step to meet our national energy need.”
The lawmakers urged the Federal Executive Council not to release any funds related to the inflated rehabilitation costs until after the review.
Recall that the House had on March 24, 2021, resolved to investigate the fresh $1.5 billion recently approved by the Federal Executive Council to rehabilitate the Port Harcourt refinery. It would also be probing into the rehabilitation and maintenance exercises on other refineries in the country, which had reportedly gulped billions of dollars.