Nigeria’s former vice-president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has condemned the decision of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to rehabilitate the Port Harcourt refinery with $1.5 billion.
The presidential candidate of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general election argued that Nigeria is sinking deeper into debt from N12 trillion to N32.9 trillion today.
In a statement on Thursday, Atiku said the approval was suspicious, as according to him, “Nigeria’s economy is in dire straits is a fact well known both to the nation and to our international partners. Unemployment has just reached an all-time high of 33%, while inflation has hit another record high of 17%.”
Atiku said at this critical period, Nigeria must, as a nation, be prudent with the use of whatever revenue it can generate and even if Nigeria must borrow, it must do so with the utmost responsibility and discipline.
“To therefore budget the sum of $1.5 billion to renovate or turn around the Port Harcourt Refinery would appear to be an unwise use of scarce funds at this critical juncture for an assortment of reasons,” he said.
“First of all, our refineries have been loss-making for multiple years, and indeed, it is questionable wisdom to throw good money after bad. At other times, I have counselled that the best course of action would be to privatise our refineries to be run more effectively and efficiently.
“The cost appears prohibitive. Too prohibitive, especially as Shell Petroleum Development Company last year sold its Martinez Refinery in California, USA, which is of a similar size as the Port Harcourt refinery, for $1.2 billion.
“We must bear in mind that the Shell Martinez Refinery is more profitable than the Port Harcourt Refinery.”
Atiku explained that: “Given this discrepancy, might we ask if there was a public tender before this cost was announced? Was due diligence performed? Because we are certainly not getting value for money. Not by a long stretch.
“We cannot as a nation expect to make economic progress if we continue to fund inefficiency, and we are going too deep into the debt trap for unnecessarily overpriced projects.
“Our national debt has grown from N12 trillion in 2015 to N32.9 trillion today. Indeed that is shocking enough to cause us to be more prudent in the way we commit future generations into the bondage of bonds and debt.
FEC had approved $1.5 billion (about N600 billion) for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery at its virtual meeting held Wednesday and presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.