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  • * Describes Atiku's Comments As Mere 'Attention-Grabbing'

By Chinwendu Agoha (Governance Reporter)

The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has dismissed former Vice President Atiku Abubakar's comments on the planned rehabilitation of one of the nation's ailing refineries as an attention-grabbing ruse lacking in rigor or depth. It is important to note that Nigerians trust President Buhari’s judgment more than Atiku’s self-serving economic advisory, said BMO.

In a release by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, BMO questioned Atiku's expertise on economic policy and described his position against allocating funds for the Port Harcourt refinery's rehabilitation by the Buhari Administration as pitifully one-dimensional.

"Public figures need to update their knowledge of basic economic policies regularly, but Alhaji Atiku continues to show why more and more well-informed Nigerians no longer take him seriously because his comments often reveal an outdated outlook which is impervious to facts and trends from the global economy".

Describing the Port Harcourt refinery's planned rehabilitation as 'suspicious' indicates that the former Vice President has not yet grasped the big picture dimensions in macro-economic policy, preferring a cut and paste approach, the group noted.

“Rather, it is Atiku’s privatization advocacy that Nigerians find suspicious. We have not forgotten how under his watch in 2007 this same refinery was sold off at a highly undervalued price of $561million. It was President Yar’Adua’s better judgment that reversed the sale.

"The Port Harcourt refinery is a national asset with undeniable economic and national strategic value. It was primarily built to boost the nation's petrochemical production and supply capacity and create a downstream value chain that will trigger economic development and increase national wealth. One can be as sentimental as one pleases, but we cannot divorce a project of that magnitude from the larger narrative of the nation's chequered industrial history. This is the right time to put things in order.

“The $1.5billion investment in the Port Harcourt refinery is a lot of money but it will be money well-spent. This is a thoughtful and serious-minded Government that enjoys popular support because it has a track record for transparency and accountability. The declared intention of the Buhari administration is to transform the hemorrhaging asset into an active production hive. It will be money well invested. By sheer size, outlay and product line, the Port Harcourt refinery can become a game-changer after rehabilitation.

"Nigeria enjoys a comparative advantage in the oil and gas sector, and this justifies investments that will increase capacity and earnings. There is no doubt Nigeria's economic fortune is already changing in the present and looking even brighter in the near and far. The coming on stream of private refineries, including the modular variety, will increase domestic refining capacity and save billions of dollars in imports. More refineries mean competition. Competition brings down prices and swings the pendulum of power from producers to consumers," the BMO reasoned.

And added that: "The African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) took off in January, and the question to ask is what competitive advantage is Nigeria bringing to the bargain? The Buhari administration is already thinking ahead in this regard, and this informs the massive investments in infrastructure and revamps of moribund assets that can generate exportable goods and services. Nigeria has the wherewithal to transform itself from a net product importer to a refining hub for the African trading bloc, an exporter of refined petroleum products and petrochemical values. Refined products from government refineries added to Dangote's, BUA’s, and other modular refineries would all together transform Nigeria to Africa's refinery capital, to make Nigeria dominate the Continent with refined products, that way strengthening our comparative advantage.

"Granted that local refineries have a history of underperformance and losses, but that inglorious reputation boils down to the lack of political will to get things right. The Buhari administration can be trusted to muster the willpower to ensure that the refinery, after rehabilitation, will be put to optimal use and does not relapse into a waste conduit. This Government has demonstrated character and integrity in transforming the oil and gas sector, including reforming NNPC from a cesspool of corruption to an accountable and transparent public corporation.

"We can only assume that Atiku's comparison of the Shell and Port Harcourt refineries was diversionary sophistry meant to muddle the facts. Shell being a publicly quoted, profit-driven multinational company sold its 108-year old 165,000 barrels per day Martinez Refinery at $1.2billion. In contrast, the Port Harcourt Refinery, a 210,000 barrels per day petrochemical complex with an average age of 44 years consists of the 60,000 barrels per day refinery and the 150,000 barrels per day refinery commissioned in 1989. On average, Shell’s Martinez refinery is 65 years older and 21.5 percent less in capacity than the Port Harcourt Refinery. It is also a project with immense economic potentials. It is one instance where the Buhari administration is looking beyond cost recovery and profit margins”.

BMO called on Nigerians to put their trust in President Buhari's integrity and rally behind his administration which is revamping infrastructures to create more jobs and diversify the nation's economic base. NNL.

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