By Our Editors
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned the first modular refinery in Nigeria, a demonstration of the effective collaboration between the government and the private sector aimed at putting in place an efficient home-grown supply chain in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry. The project is, indeed, a milestone in the present administration’s policy to upscale local refining and build local capacity.
The pathfinding project promoted by Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company and located at the Ibigwe Field in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State, is part of the response strategy of the present administration to address the not-too-edifying import-substitution policy as regards petroleum products.
The refinery project is also a clear proof that the administration’s inward-looking policy through the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) is beginning to bear tangible fruits. We recall that in 2018, the federal government rolled out a road map designed to make Nigeria a net exporter of petroleum products such as kerosene, premium motor spirit (PMS) among others. The establishment of modular refineries is one of the four key elements of that road map intended to eliminate importation.
The refinery has an initial capacity for 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil which will come up to 50,000 bpd when the phase two of the project with a capacity for 45,000 barrels bpd is completed and made operational.
At that virtual ceremony, the President expressed his optimism that with the coming on stream of this modular refinery, Nigeria was inching closer to achieving her desire to be self-sustainable in domestic crude refining and becoming a net exporter of petroleum products. To ensure that the refinery played its role in the petroleum products’ supply chain, he directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the ministry of Petroleum Resources to make adequate crude oil supply to this modular refinery and others in the country. According to the President, a sustained feedstock supply will enable the refinery achieve its expansion initiative which is targeting 50,000barrels bpd.
As a newspaper, we share the President’s expansive mood as this refinery takes its first sure step in the journey to making petroleum products easily available to Nigerians. It is pertinent to point out, however, that several other companies had been issued operating licenses but no one came to fruition except the Waltersmith Modular Refinery, which in addition to advancing economic prosperity of the country will create thousands of jobs.
It is epochal, in our view, that Imo State and actually South east, is considered fit for this project. Although it is private sector driven, it is also, fundamentally, a testimony to the present administration’s policy towards ensuring that no part of the country is left out in its development plans and actions.
Again, the joy of the moment is heightened, in our opinion, with the realization that a non-Igbo, the chairman of the company, Abdulrazak Isa, decided to spear-head this important project and inject huge funds into this capital intensive investment in the South east. Already this modular refinery has injected five million litres of petroleum products into the domestic market. And at full capacity after the expansion, it will be supplying 2.7 billion litres of petroleum products into the domestic market.
As the President pointed out, the NNPC and Imo state government have key roles to play in assisting this company to attain the heights it has set for itself. On the part of the oil conglomerate, it must ensure that the company gets a steady and sustained supply of the crude oil it needs to function maximally. Similarly, if NNPC has any regulatory influence over the company, it should be such that will encourage it to serve Nigeria and Nigerians well.
As it concerns Imo, the host state, it ought to know that it is expected to provide a conducive environment for the company to enable it to function effectively. One of the headaches investors experience in their operations is the challenge of multiple taxation. We recognize the fact that the company, like any other business enterprise, is aware of its obligations in that regard. However, we appeal to the government of the state to accept that the company is a positive, in terms of the multiplier effect it will have on the state and must be encouraged to function in a manner that will attract other investors to that part of the country that is in dire need of industrialization.
In our considered opinion, Waltersmith is throwing a challenge to Igbo investors who prefer to build up other parts of the country leaving the homeland derelict. This is a wakeup call for them to abandon well-worn excuses and bring home resources urgently needed to make the state attain its desires and aspirations in the areas of economic growth and development.