Despite the statements of various government officials including the Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, President Goodluck Jonathan has no plans to and has not approved the sale of Nigeria’s four refineries, presidential aide, Reuben Abati, said on Thursday.
Mr. Abati also claimed the federal government had no plans to privatise the refineries.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke had while speaking in an interview with Bloomberg TV Africa in London in November said that the refineries would be sold.
About a week after Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s interview, Nigeria’s privatisation agency, the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, said it was working with Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s petroleum ministry to privatise the refineries.
“We are working with the NNPC and Ministry of Petroleum Resources on the privatisation of the four refineries. We are just in the preliminary discussion with them and very soon, we will make public the work plan for the privatisation processes, including the engagement of advisers to advise us on the transaction,” Chigbo Anichebe, the spokesperson of the BPE said in a statement.
“Once the work plan is fine-tuned, hopefully by the end of the year or early January next year, the work plan as well as the schedule will be unveiled to all stakeholders, including the media.”
The statement by the two government officials directly related to the privatisation has now been faulted by Mr. Abati, who claims the president has no plan to privatise the refineries.
Mr. Abati said this in an interview with journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday,
Mr. Abati was reacting to the proposed strike by oil workers, NUPENG, who threatened to embark on a nationwide strike if the refineries are privatised. Any strike by NUPENG would lead to scarcity of petroleum products, and could worsen the popularity of the Jonathan administration, which has been getting some knocks from Nigerians over its policies.
The spokesperson said if the alleged plan to sell the country’s refineries was the basis on which NUPENG plans to go on strike, then there will be no dialogue by the federal government as it had no such plans.
“Government is not going to sell any refineries. There is no such plan and there is no presidential approval for such,” Mr. Abati said. “Nobody, not even the minister of petroleum has powers to sell any government property”
He added that if the proposed strike by oil workers was founded on the allegations that government plans to sell refineries, then they should sheath their sword.
A presidential audit of the country’s refineries led by a former Minister of Finance, Kalu Idika Kalu, had recommended the sale of the refineries due to inadequate funding by government for “sub-optimal performance.”
The four refineries, located in Warri, Kaduna and Port Harcourt have a combined capacity of 445,000 bpd.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had tried to sell off the Kaduna and Warri refineries, but the sale had been reversed by the government of late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.