By Adewale Sanyaolu

Hopes  of December 2023 resumption of fuel production from the Port Harcourt refinery which Turn Around Maintenance  began in 2019 now hangs in the balance with some stakehoders expressing doubts over the Federal Government’s targets being realised.

The project which was orignially secheduled for delivery  in 2021 was however pushed forward to December by President Bola Tinubu administration as part of its bargain with the Organised Labour who had threatened to down tools over the removal of fuel subsidy by the government.

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources(Oil), Mr. Senator Heineken Lokpobiri,  had at the weekend reassured that the refinery would come on stream by December 2023.

But his assurances were taken with a pinch of salt and mixed feelings by some critical stakeholders in the oil and gas industry who expressed doubt at the promise,given that the national asset has since become a drain pipe and cesspool of corruption.

They argued that the $1.5 billion earmarked for the rehabilitation of the refinery had become  already become national cake for government officials

A mechanical engineer who operates in the oil and gas sector said not much progress has been made on the rehabilitation works at the refinery, saying the December timeline remained unrealistic.

He said the pace of works at the refinery has been so slow due to community unrest which has been a stumbling block in the wheel of progress for contractors.

Also reacting Chairman, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Rivers State Branch, Mr. Joseph Obele,  had  last year decried as ‘snail speed’ the pace of the ongoing rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery, saying it was practically impossible for the refinery to begin production by 2023. Obele said it was impossible for the refinery to commence operations with the timeline, saying that even the major components of the refinery were to yet to arrive the country as at last year.

He maintained that the government was not serious with fixing the refineries, as it was more profitable to sell the crude quota or allocation meant for local refining in dollars.

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A youth leader, A youth leader, Johnson Ngei, alleged  violation of section five of the Community Guidelines of the Local Content Act, especially in the area of employment,  which,he said, has been grossly abused

He alleged that the community was being shortchanged as job slots were being sold from N200,000 to N2 million depending on the position.

Ngei disclosed further  that the community had already staged three protests but the contractors, Tecnimont, a subsidiary of Italy’s Maire Tecnimont remained adamant

Former Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, last year assured that the rehabilitation of the 60,000 bpd refinery was being completed and would started by Q1 2023 as promised.

Sylva stated this while giving an update on the Port Harcourt refineries during the ministry of petroleum resources 2022 scorecard in Abuja.

“Our promise has been that the 60,000 bpd plant within the Port Harcourt refinery by the end of Q4 2022, it is being completed and is going to be started by Q1 2023 as promised,” he said.

Also the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO, of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited(NNPCL), Mr. Mele Kyari, last year, said the ongoing rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery will be completed by March 2023. Kyari said this at the resumed investigative hearing into the state of the refineries in the country by the House of Ad-hoc Committee chaired by Ganiyu Johnson.

Represented by Mustapha Yakubu, general manager, refineries and  petrochemicals of the company, Kyari said the contract which took off on the 6th May 2021 had attained 30 percent completion level, with the target of March 2023 while part of it would be delivered within 32 months and the entire project is expected to be completed within 42 months.

While affirming that the contract for the survey of the refineries followed due process, he said the contracts for the rehabilitation of Warri and Kaduna Refineries had not been awarded.

Responding to questions on the rehabilitation contract, a representative of Sapiem Engineering Company which got the contract of $135 million for the comprehensive technical survey of Port Harcourt Refineries, said an additional sum of £2.3 million was approved for the inspection of both Warri and Kaduna refineries.