The oil refineries in Nigeria will never be operational, according to former president Olusegun Obasanjo, despite the administration of President Bola Tinubu’s pledge to have the Port Harcourt refinery operational by December 2023.
The former president of Nigeria claimed in an interview with The Cable that the Shell Oil Development Company SPDC had rejected his offer to manage the refineries while he was in office.
He also claimed that government-owned refineries wouldn’t operate as long as the government kept hold of them.
After much convincing, the managing director of Shell at the time listed four reasons why the oil company would not take on the management of Nigeria’s refineries, including “too much corruption in refineries,” the speaker continued.
As long as the government retains control over them, they (refineries) won’t operate.
I requested Shell to attend a meeting when I was president.
In order for them to assist us in running the refineries, I told them I wanted to hand them over.
I received a direct no from them. Amazed, I said.
They refused to budge when I asked again.
After the meeting, I asked their big man (MD) to stick around for a brief conversation. I then questioned him on their hesitation to take control of the refineries.
He asked if I wanted to hear the truth, and I replied that I did. He gave four explanations.
First, he claimed that upstream is where Shell makes its money and where its interest lies.
Two, he claimed that as a matter of service, they only perform downstream or retail activities. Three, he claimed that our refineries would hurt their bottom line because companies around the world are choosing larger refineries due to their economics.
And finally, he claimed that refineries are too corrupt.
I thanked him for being straightforward.
We had a significant issue, I was aware of that.
When God worked a miracle, I had all but given up on the refineries.
I was approached by Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola, who said they were interested in purchasing two of the four refineries.
They announced that they would acquire a 51% stake in Port Harcourt and Kaduna.
Overjoyed, I was.
I claimed that the government would finally be relieved of this burden. They made a $761 million offer and made two payments. Unfortunately, Umaru (President Yar’Adua) canceled the deal and gave the refineries back to NNPC.
We remain where we were today.
Refineries would be operational by December, someone reportedly said about Tinubu.
The refineries wouldn’t operate, I informed the person. This is based on information I got from Shell when I was president,” he said.