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The oil industry in Nigeria has matured since its first discovery in 1956 at Oloibiri, suffice it to say that though the industry may have flourished to reasonable level, there are burgeoning issues that have caused setback for the industry in the country.

Delivering his keynote address at the 7th anniversary of the Nigerian NewsDirect Newspaper, Dr. Diran Fawibe, Chairman International Energy Services Limited (IES) extolled the virtues of Dr. Maikanti Baru, Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Fawibe described the NNPC helmsman thus, “The man whose achievement is being celebrated is a thorough breed oil and gas engineer and if such a person is in charge of such a key sector and an apex organization for the oil and gas industry, there no much that can be said to him that he is not in the know.” He was of the view that “Since Baru took the mantle as GMD of NNPC, it is obvious that he is a man who has come from strong background and a man of affairs.”

Fawibe used the opportunity to dissect the oil industry in Nigeria, “The oil and gas industry today has a lot of issues and challenges, but taking a look at how these issues and challenges are being tackled, there is hope in spite of the political situation of the country, the oil and gas industry will still be moved to the next level.” He made it known that there are number of challenges in the industry in Nigeria especially scarcity of petroleum products. He stated clearly that the pressure the GMD is facing is like a war room. “If there is a national or civil war, a war room will be set up and in NNPC there is a war room where issues are being tackled pertaining to scarcity of petroleum products.” According to him, “The GMD egg heads at present are working assiduously to ensure that we Nigerians don’t queue at fuel stations.”

Besides, the IES boss observed that when there are problems with the country’s refineries the GMD will take action and gives instruction that findings should be done on how refineries will be fixed. He advised that the operating commercial model of the refineries should be changed. He disclosed that when the first Port-Harcourt refinery was set up in 1965, it was mainly for crude, all the oil marketing companies in Nigeria were buying crude oil and brought it to the refinery which was only refining at 35000 barrels per day, it will be refined and the companies ferry their products to their destinations. It was known then as Nigeria Petroleum Refinery Company. Sixty percent of ownership was for the Nigerian government while forty percent was owned by Shell and BP. Although Shell concentrated on exploration and production.

Fawibe made it known that the problem with the refineries had been for some time and “Old wisdom is required to bring them back on track.” The method being used to address the issues will not be sustainable for a long time. He urged the GMD to ask some of his top echelon to research thoroughly and find a lasting solution that will take care of the issue of “no product supply.” The country is relying on Dangote refinery to produce and refine fuel, but “should we put all our eggs in one basket?” The country should ensure that all the refineries are working well to augment the expected one. He commended the GMD for championing the rehabilitation of all the refineries but the model should be changed.

On the issue of mass utilization, Fawibe wants the process to be re-engineered whereby the power plants in the country will have access to gas. He expressed optimism on the NNPC efforts in bringing additional pipelines to ensure that the industry works maximally. The process has to be re-strategized where security agents will be alive to their responsibilities in terms of using not just antiquated method of monitoring pipeline but sophisticated technology.

Fawibe observed that there are number of issues that must be considered on the aspect of funding the oil industry. Financial institutions have more access to fund and NNPC once encouraged indigenous oil firms to be involved in the sector, inject funds into the banks so that these companies will access them. Part of the money being used for divestment that was given to the banks belonged to the government (NNPC). Unfortunately, these funds in form of loans are hanging. He counselled the government to put in place enabling environment that will allow foreign investors to invest in the country instead of using the internally generated revenue for which there are challenges.

The oil and gas expert emphasized on regulatory framework for the industry known as Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), for the past ten years the bill has not been passed into law. This is one of the issues bedeviling the oil industry in Nigeria. The country should learn from history and the narrative has to be changed in the sector to make it a self-sustainable industry that will guide the Nigerian economy. He reiterated, “Whether we like it or not, we may say we want to diversify, the oil and gas industry is the only sector that is sustaining the Nigeria’s economy for the foreseeable future.” The country is not making impact in agriculture and mining sector, “Let us put in place a programme that will enable NNPC, the oil and gas sector, to be sustainable for the long term and help us get out of this economic mess we find ourselves especially through the antics of politicians, Fawibe bemoaned.”

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