PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has virtually inaugurated the 5,000 barrels per day modular crude oil Waltersmith refinery in Ibigwe in Imo State in a major step aimed at ending Nigeria’s dependence on petrol imports.
Despite being Africa’s largest crude oil producer and the sixth biggest exporter in the world, Nigeria is a big petrol importer because he three refineries have packed up. Only this week, Nigeria entered into an agreement with neighbouring Niger Republic to supply it with petrol due to the fact that the Warri, Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries are not functioning.
Given the inability of the Nigerian government to run state-owned refineries, there have been several private sector initiatives like the Dangote Refinery in Lagos State and the Waltersmith refinery. Speaking at the opening from the presidential villa, President Buhari said the establishment of modular refineries in the country will make petroleum products available and eliminate imported.
At the occasion, he also performed the ground-breaking ceremony for the Phase Two works of the project to expand the capacity of the refinery to 50,000 barrels a day. President Buhari said the deployment of modular refineries was one of the four key elements of his administration’s refinery roadmap rolled out in 2018, adding that its implementation will make Nigeria a net exporter of petroleum products.
He expressed delight that Waltersmith refinery in Ohaji Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State was coming on stream within two years of the commencement of the roadmap, after many years of granting licenses for the establishment of modular refineries with nothing to show for it. Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State and the minister of state for petroleum, cut the tape on behalf of the president at the event.
Femi Adesina, President Buhari’s spokesman, said: “There is increased momentum in the other three focus areas under the roadmap covering the rehabilitation of existing refineries, co-location of new refineries and construction of greenfield refineries. The realisation of the refinery roadmap will ultimately lead us to become a net exporter of petroleum products not only to our neighbouring countries but to the worldwide market.
“This modular refinery is the largest commissioned modular refinery in the country today. The role played by the Federal Government through the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board in going into collaboration with Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company is novel in concept and superb in delivery.”
President Buhari thanked the local community and the people of Imo State for hosting the refinery, which, he stressed, will bring prosperity and economic development to the area. Also, the president commended the ministry of petroleum resources, the minister Timipre Sylva, the chairman and members of the governing council, and the management and staff of the Nigerian Content Development Board for making the public-private partnership a success.