Trouble Looms, Obasanjo Blasts Bola Tinubu
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has for the first time spoken on the 100 day old government of President Bola Tinubu, challenging him on one of the promises made.
The issue is about the Port Harcourt Refinery, which Tinubu said will be operational in December.
The refinery is at present undergoing a major overhaul with a loan of $1.5 billion from AfricaExim Bank.
But Obasanjo expressed scepticism that thhe refinery will work by December 2023.
In an interview with The Cable Online Newspaper, Obasanjo emphasised his belief that the nation’s refineries would never function efficiently as long as they remained under government ownership.
Drawing on past experiences, Obasanjo shared insights into the challenges facing Nigeria’s refinery sector.
He recounted a crucial meeting he had with representatives from Shell during his presidency, where he proposed handing over the refineries to the oil giant for management.
“Someone told me Tinubu said refineries would work by December. I told the person the refineries would not work. This is based on the information I received from Shell when I was president.
“They will not work as long as the government is keeping hold of them. When I was president, I invited Shell to a meeting. I told them I wanted to hand over the refineries for them to help us run. They bluntly told me they would not. I was shocked.
“I repeated the request, and they stood their ground. When the meeting was over, I asked their big man (MD) to wait behind for a little chat. Then I asked him why they were so hesitant about not taking over the refineries.
“He said, Do I want to hear the truth? I said yes. He listed four reasons. One, he said, is that Shell makes its money upstream, and that is where its interest lies. Two, he said they only do downstream or retail as a matter of service. Three, he said our refineries would be bad business for them and that globally, companies are going for bigger refineries because of the economics of refineries. Four, he said there is too much corruption in refineries.
“I thanked him for his honesty. I knew we had a big problem on our hands. I had virtually given up hope for the refineries when God performed a miracle. Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola approached me and said they would be interested in buying two of the four refineries.
“They said they would buy a 51 percent stake in Port Harcourt and Kaduna. I was over the moon. I said, finally, that this burden would be taken off the shoulders of the government. They offered $761 million and paid in two installments. Unfortunately, Umaru (President Yar’Adua) cancelled the sale and returned the refineries to NNPC. Today, we are still where we were.