Former President Olusegun Obasanjo weekend described as “commendable” the decision by the President, Muhammad Buhari to award operational licences to twenty-two firms for the construction of modular refineries in the country.
Obsanjo, who performed the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of Azikel Refinery, the first private modular refinery in the oil and gas-rich Niger Delta region, admitted that unlike the present administration, 18 of such licences were qapproved under his administration but they failed to actulise it..
The proposed Modular Refinery, which would be built and known as Azikel Refinery is owned by Azikel Petroleum, a subsidiary of Azikel Group of Companies with Azibapu Eruani, an indigene of Bayelsa as its Group President, is located at Obunagha community in Gbarain Kingdom of Yenagoa Local Government Area of the state.
The 12,000-barrels refinery is sitting on a 19.92 hectares of a swampy land that was reclaimed with over 2.7million cubic metres of sand, which dredging lasted nine months and It is expected that Azikel Refinery would come on stream in 2019.
Speaking at the event on saturday, Former President Obasanjo commended President Muhammadu Buhari for awarding modular refinery operational licences to 22 firms, including the Azikel Petroleum.
He noted that out of the 22 licenced operators, Azikel Petroleum is the only company that had actualized its dream of establishing a modular refinery.
The former President said he was delighted at the commitment of Azikel Petroleum, adding that none of the 18 licenses earlier awarded by his administration came to fruition.
Obasanjo said, “I have been told that President Buhari and his government gave 22 licences and Azikel Petroleum is the only license out of the 22 that is really actualized.
“Before then, we gave 18 and not one was actialized.They gave all manners of excuses including insecurity and oil prices. But those excuses thy give are still there. But they were not genuine entrepreneurs. They were after collecting licenses to get crude oil. And that is why in an occasion like this we should pay special tribute to people like Eruani.
“I join you all in thanking President Buhari for giving four licences more than we gave. And he (Buhari) is lucky that he has a man like Eruani to be the only one to actualize”
He also commended the Bayelsa State government under Governor Seriake Dickson for creating the enabling environment for the take-off of the modular refunery project.
Obasanjo also lauded the technical and financial partners of Azikel Petroleum and advised the Group President of Azikel Group of Companies not to betray the trust and confidence reposed in him by his partners.
In his welcome address, the Group President, Azikel Group of Companies, thanked President Buhari for the licence and expressed hope that the refinery project would mitigate the frequent scarcity of petroleum products and curb youth restiveness in Bayelsa and in the region,
Eruani, who noted that some youths who would work at the facility were currently undergoing fabrication engineering training in the United States, said that construction and production phases of the refinery project would provide about 1,000 jobs.
“Our journey is one with lots of interests and challenges. But our committed drive to industrialize the Nigeria Delta is unwavering. For the first time we will refine crude oil at home. This is the beginning of reversing the incessant scarcity of petroleum products.
“But more importantly, this will bring several businesses in the state and in the Niger Delta. We will puts youths to work and we will be engaging communities. This will largely curb youth restiveness”, Eruani said.
In his remarks, Governor Dickson said the Azikel Refinery was very important to Bayelsa as the government creates the conducive atmosphere for private sector investment to thrive.
Governor Dickson, who at the event signed two Certificates of Occupancy and handed over them over to Azikel Petroleum and Azikel Power, another subsidiary, also commended President Buhari “for finding Azikel Group fit and proper”to be granted licence, stressing that “we expect more of such friendly gestures”.
He said that his administration would continue to support the refinery project and any such business ventures that would stimulate economic growth and development in the state, describing Bayelsa as a safe haven for investment.
In their separate remarks, the Chairman of the event and former Military Governor of old Rivers State, Alfred Diete-Spiff, Senator Paulker Emmanuel (Bayelsa Central) and former Minister of Petroleum, Edmund Daukoru, said the establishment of Azikel Refinery was the greatest thing that has happened to Bayelsa.
They commended the courage and vision of Eruani and thanked Buhari for deeming it necessary to award the company the licence build a modular refinery in the state.
Meanwhile, the Bayelsa State Governor, Honestly. Seriake Dickson has called on the Federal Government to grant indigenes of the Niger Delta more oil blocks to fast development in the region.
According to him, more oil blocs should be given to the oil-producing areas because they are “the ancestral properties of Niger Delta.”
He also called on the multinational oil colonies to heed the directive by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) to relocate to the Niger Delta which produces the crude oil.
According to Gov. Dickson, “We need more of this investment for our people to be part of it. At anytime I have opportunity as a governor of a federating unit, I will use the opportunity to commend President Muhammadu Buhari and tell him that we need more of this”.
“We are talking of ownership of oil blocks because that is a legitimate demand. We are yet to see the demands and directive by the Federal Government that oil companies should relocate to the Niger Delta.”
“I don’t know of any business which justifies pipelines crisis crossing several areas for building refineries while they haven’t built refineries from the source of crude oil.”
“In all the all-producing areas around the world, the activities of those companies are located where the resources come from. We must examine our own conduct and what we do. We are waiting for the oil blocks, what the Nigerian government sits down and calls oil blocks are in fact and in truth the ancestral properties of the Niger Delta.”
“They are pieces of our ancestral properties given away at our expenses. We are not saying other should not be included. But if we are not included, it will be wrong.”
Dickson commended ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo whose government, according to him, gave Bayelsa State two (indigenous) oil blocs, while he did certain things to right the wrongs of the past when he was the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice.
“The investment will take off all the stress and pressures on us I’ve signed the Certificate of Occupancy for 99 years in line with the Land Use Act. I do this every week and one of the fist things I did when I came to Office was to liberalise land”, he stated.
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