A civil rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has tasked the management of the publicly-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to demonstrate more openness, accountability and probity in the administration of the petroleum sub-sector of the economy.
The rights group made the charge against the backdrop of the reported open bidding process for the Port Harcourt Refinery rehabilitation contract and another revelation that public fund running to about N16 billion ($367 million) was frittered away in a year on running the three publicly-owned refineries without any of them refining a single barrel of crude oil.
“ We think that it is only voodoo economists that will try to justify the enormous wastage of such colossal sum of money on nothing,” HURIWA declared in a press statement made available to Morning Mail on Wednesday.
The group wondered the kind of unorthodox accounting and auditing process that could seek to justify “this monumental disappearance of such humongous amount of money on practically nothing.”
It stated further: “We can’t fathom how on earth the huge bills of $367 million USD could be ‘spent’ on nothing and indeed nobody is asking any critical questions and those elected and maintained at exorbitant cost to the taxpayers to do the oversight duties are so compromised that this does not matter in their legislative calculations”.
In the statement signed by its National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA expressed displeasure that the National Assembly “has demonstrated a scandalous aversion for probity, accountability and transparency” while members of the legislative chambers “are involved in gang- up against public interest and public good by failing to conclusively determine the logic behind the inexplicable fact that $367 million was ‘spent’ in a year on the nation’s refineries but yet no single drop of crude was refined in those refineries.”
The statement read further: “HURIWA, like most patriotic Nigerians, has still not recovered from the groundswell of shock wave that swept around the country as a result of the revelation that no white product (Premium Motor Spirit and Dual Purpose Kerosene) was produced in June 2020 and apparently for the past 12 consecutive months. The lack of production is due to ongoing rehabilitation works at the refineries. In the same period, operating costs for the country’s three main oil refineries, which the NNPC has shuttered pending revamps, totalled $367 million”.
On the plan to kick-start the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery, the group expressed strong doubts that the management of NNPC is capable of adhering to the terms of the contract to ensure early completion and commencement of refining of crude oil because of several public statements from the NNPC indicate that they are much more comfortable importing fuel from Niger Republic than to do the needful by fixing the refineries on time.
A press release by the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the NNPC, Dr. Kennie Obateru, stated that the bid for turn around of the Port Harcourt refinery, which held virtually, had in attendance external observers such as the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and the Civil Liberties Organizations (CLO). This signals the imminent take off of the second phase of the rehabilitation of the refinery whose first phase was completed earlier in the year.”
HURIWA recalled that at the event, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, restated the Corporation’s commitment to revamping the four Refineries including the Warri Refinery and the Kaduna Refineries.
“We want the NNPC to be much more open, transparent and accountable just as the rights group said the Nigerian Public Fund wasted in the guise of rehabilitating the refineries without end should be recovered back to the public treasury that those huge cash were actually not deployed to achieve any deliverable”.
HURIWA does not believe that this present management of NNPC that has been quoted in the media to have given up on fixing the non productive refineries, will be committed to completing the job because from all indications, this contract to revamp the refinery in the Garden City may just be another avenue for a cash bonanza and money guzzling gambit to service politicians’ insatiable appetite for crude oil cash in hard currency,” it added.