Against the backdrop of calls for the outright sale of the country's four refineries as a way of increasing local refining in Nigeria, oil workers under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) have called on the federal government to adopt the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) model in managing the four refineries in the country.
President of the union Babatunde Ogun said at the weekend that this has become necessary in view of the persistent calls for the outright sale of the country's four refineries as a way of increasing local refining in the country.
He said that it is only the NLNG model that can protect the national interest and make the refineries operate at their full capacities.
According to him, in the NLNG model, the federal government, through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation owns, 49 per cent of the equity shares, while the remaining 51 per cent is owned by Shell Gas BV, Total LNG Limited and Eni International in different proportions.
He disclosed that the model will free the operations of the refineries from all encumbrances caused by bureaucracy and official bottlenecks that hinder them from performing at their optimal capacities.
Ogun explained that the major problem bedevilling the four refineries is lack of adequate autonomy for their boards. He said the present situation where the managing director/chief executive of the refineries have an approval limit that cannot even replace a nut in the plant let alone carry out a Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) is detrimental to the efficient operations of the refineries.
He said: "There are many limiting factors that cannot allow our refineries to function at optimal capacities and as a major stakeholder we are also worried about this. We canvass that for the downstream sector to be active and for the anomalies in the functioning of the refineries to be corrected, what we need is liberalization but not privatization.
"This is what the government did with the telecommunications sector. If the market is liberalized, the private investor will be able to come in with investments and establish refineries, while the existing refineries can operate side by side.
"In Nigeria, we are all living witnesses to the fate that befell companies that have been privatized. Where are they today? Where is NITEL, Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, Nigeria Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) and a host of others?
For the same fate not to befall our refineries which is critical to our economy, we as the workers in that sector are advocating for the NLNG model where the government will hold some percentage of the equity and private investors will also be allowed to hold some equity shares and operate the plants. This is the model we want to revitalise our refineries and reduce our over-dependence on importation of petroleum products with its inherent corruption and distortions to the nation's economy."
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