$2Billion Katsina Refinery Project is Misplaced Priority, says Save Ijaw Group
The Save Ijaw Nation Group (SING) has observed with a great amount of concern the moves by the Buhari administration to construct a petroleum refinery on the border with Niger republic at a whooping cost of $2billion, even at a time when the four existing refineries in Nigeria aren’t functional. For a government that claims to be diversifying the Nigerian economy away from oil dependence, it is rather curious that the administration has embarked on a desperate search for oil in the northern parts of the country, costing the Nigerian taxpayer hundreds of billions of Naira at a time when government revenues were in decline starving more pressing needs of needed funds. To the best of our knowledge this search, for a process that had absolutely no transparency, has yielded no results.
For same government, that also planned a pipeline from Niger to the Kaduna refinery only to abandon same when it discovered that it made no economic sense, only to come up with this new “private sector driven” refinery project smacks of disregard for the genuine needs of Nigerians or a lack of capacity to articulate 21st century governance.
It is interesting that, despite the fact Niger having its longest border with Nigeria and having cultural similarities with parts of Nigeria, it chooses to route its imports through Benin Republic due to the shambolic trade policies and inefficient Ports and Customs operations in Nigeria. If Niger could build a rail line from Porto Novo to Niamey to move its major imports, it is strange that the Nigerian government would be desperate to do oil deals of such magnitude with them, without obtaining any concessions from them on trade at a time when the major economic powers of the world are taking positions in a trade war.
Nigerians will recall that this same government, that raved about a cleanup of Ogoni land that never was, has proven to be less than sincere about its plans for the Niger-Delta. A government that talks a big game about modular refineries, yet couldn’t find private investors for same even though these cost less than the Niger joint venture, should know better than to attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the long-suffering Nigerian people under the guise that it will be a private project.
At a time when the Lagos seaports are overstretched and inefficient causing a lockdown in the city, while Port Harcourt and Warri are underutilized and other potential port destinations are not developed, the logical thing would have been for the government to invest or seek investors who would open up more port destinations that would make Nigeria a trading hub for west and central Africa. The government’s actions show a deliberate attempt to impoverish the masses of our people of Nigeria so as to have fertile grounds for vote buying to perpetuate itself in power.
SING wishes to place on record our displeasure and disapproval for this project, with such huge financial commitment, at a time when the government claims to be working to diversify the Nigerian economy for self-sufficiency. It is already an aberration that some northern states already source their diesel (which is deregulated in Nigeria) from Niger, but for the government to institutionalize our dependence on a country that does its major trade relations with smaller Benin Republic smacks of less than noble intentions. Now is the time for Nigeria to take advantage of the opportunities in a trade to build infrastructure that will make her a manufacturing hub in sub-Saharan Africa to enable her to take advantage of technology transfer as the likes of China and the Asian Tigers have done. The last economic recession and the decades of deterioration of the quality of life of the average Nigerian ought to have taught us that projects should be based on sound business and economic considerations not elitist considerations as this refinery project shows. The more urgent challenge confronting Nigeria today is the fact that we have the highest number of people in extreme poverty, which keeps increasing at the rate of 6 persons per minute and sadly the government of the day has remained silent on this fact.