Disclosures of new business relationships by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the past few weeks were not only embarrassing but a public exhibition of the shame of a nation that is supposed to be called Nigeria.

Absence of harrowing queues at fuel stations across the country especially during the last yuletide of Christmas and Sallah according to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was a testimony that the country has shook -off the lethargy of scarcity and picked up a head of steam for better service delivery.

But as good as it sounded, to anyone who thought the nation has emerged from the fraud and corruption mess in petroleum products importation by the NNPC, the recent disclosures of the devil-informed joint venture deals between the nation’s apex oil concern and Petrobras of Brazil on one hand and some refineries in Ivory Coast are just a meager part of sobering reality checks.

What is the NNPC actually up to? How else can anybody describe the recent deal between Nigeria (NNPC) and Ivory Coast to refine Nigerian crude in Ivorian refineries but to say it was an outright aberration of a sane society and a shame to everybody that calls himself or herself a Nigerian more so the leadership of the NNPC and the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
It makes sense only to the warped –minded that Nigeria should take its crude oil to Ivory Coast to process in refineries owned by ‘ghosts’ and then bring back to the country to sell.
It is very funny that NNPC could seal a N450 billion two-year crude-for-product-swap with a country whose economy is purely agro-based when all our four refineries are comatose and requires less than half that amount to bring them into full and efficient operation. It’s time all concerned Nigerians set out to unmask the real owners of those Ivorian refineries because they are prominent Nigerians who clearly now have vowed that no single refinery will work efficiently in this country. This is the truth.

Is it not an embarrassment that Ivory Coast that otherwise should be 100 percent dependent on Nigeria for its fuel energy needs is now our savior. Shame to NNPC! Shame to the federal government!

Why has the corporation deliberately dodged to confront whatever problems that have bedeviled our refineries? What is the cost of repairing or building new refineries considering the trillions of dollars wasted since the current era of fuel importation was ushered in by the Obasanjo administration and now taken to a criminal and disgraceful height by the Jonathan government?

Let’s also ask: What happened to the over 21 licenses issued by DPR/NNPC for building of private refineries?

Why can't we have our refineries here in Nigeria work and new ones built to refine products and export from here to America?
 
It is easier for the NNPC and the Minister to pipe our crude oil to refineries abroad even in funny countries rather than provide the enabling environment or at worst compel all international operating oil companies to refine 60- 80 of their produced crude here with their own companies. The tax and job creation potential such policy would create will without doubt beat whatever peanuts we are getting now from offshore refining that brings back to us only petrol, diesel and kerosene as products.

Both the Petroleum Minister and the managers of NNPC need to be informed and in a plain language too that to add value to our economy, to create jobs for the army of unemployed but qualified youths we should be doing the refining in Nigeria and not in Ivory Coast, Brazil or USA.

Offshore refining has remained the worst conduit pipe for fraud and stealing in the entire NNPC system and the Petroleum Ministry. If we refine at home, the by-products from such operations will feed petro-chemical industries in Nigeria with multiplier-effects on value creation.

Just the other day, the NNPC said the corporation, which hitherto had been exporting crude oil to the US, had concluded arrangements with Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras, to invest in Petrobras’s plan to expand its refinery in Texas, USA, from 100,000 barrels to 200,000 barrels per day. From the stream run, the Petrobras refinery that NNPC wants to buy into is just as big as Port Harcourt 1 refinery. Shame!

Group Managing Director of NNPC, Augustine Oniwon was quoted as saying the NNPC had since indicated its interest to invest in Petrobras’s plan to expand its refinery in Texas, US, from 100,000 barrels to 200,000 barrels per day.
 
“We indicated to them (Petrobras) our interest to partner with the company to have an outlet into American market instead of exporting just crude to the American market.

“We can take Nigerian crude, which is also going into American market anyway, into this refinery, process and sell as value added product into the American market.”

Oniwon told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the NNPC and Petrobras had concluded discussion to enter into a relationship in the areas of oil exploration and production, refining and petro-chemical, oil marketing and trading, gas and power development as well as research and development.
“They (Petrobras) hope that we will be able to jointly explore the vast hydro carbon deposit in Nigeria especially in the deep offshore since the MOU is going to embrace worldwide operations.

“We believe that Petrobras will be eager to join with NNPC to develop the gas resources primarily for domestic use and for export because they are also short of gas in Brazil.”

Who is fooling who? Petrobras will come to Nigeria to produce gas for Nigerian market and then export for local Brazilian consumption? Is this not a malaria dream?

Such arrangements do not show that we are extremely brilliant people. And maybe, we are actually not. Except we agree that the people taking critical decisions for our collective interests as a nation may after all not be as brilliant  as they may want us believe.

NNPC as an operating upstream player, how many cubic feet of gas does it produce in one day on its own minus what it gets from Shell and other IOCs? Zero!

What is happening to Eleme Petrochemicals? What is happening to the petrochemical components of the Warri and Kaduna Refineries? Why can’t we build new petrochemical plants to export finished products to Brazil and America?

Our so called leaders think we are a bunch of dummies. If not how could the NNPC boss tell us that forming a joint venture to refine our crude in Ivory Coast and USA (Petrobras) make good business sense. This is money laundering made easy.

IFEANYI IZEZE, ABUJA, NIGERIA ([email protected])

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