Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has stated that Nigeria’s oil refineries will never be operational, despite President Bola Tinubu’s administration’s vow to have the Port Harcourt refinery operational by December 2023.
In an interview with The Cable, the former Nigerian leader stated that when he was in charge, the Shell Oil Development Company SPDC turned down his offer to manage the refineries, and that government-owned refineries would never function as long as the government retained control of them.
He went on to say that after considerable persuading, Shell’s managing director at the time cited four reasons why the oil corporation would not handle Nigeria’s refineries, including “too much corruption in refineries.”
They (refineries) 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 on not taking over the refineries. He said did I want to hear the truth? I said yes. He listed four reasons. One, he said Shell makes its money from 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, 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 on the refineries when God did 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 per cent stake in Port Harcourt and Kaduna. I was over the moon.
I said, finally, this burden would be taken off the neck 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. 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 the president,” he said