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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

$1.5bn Port Harcourt refinery repair split Reps minority caucus

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THE minority caucus of the House of Representatives is currently divided over the controversy surrounding the decision to rehabilitate the Port Harcourt Refining Company at the cost of $1.5bn.

While some leaders of the caucus have called for the stoppage of the project, others backed the repairs.

The Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, had on March 30, 2021, issued a statement on behalf of the caucus to demand an immediate review of the cost, describing the $1.5bn figure as “outrageous and heavily inflated.”

According to Elumelu, the caucus reached the conclusion after a thorough evaluation of the proposal.

In the statement titled, ‘Reps minority caucus demands review of $1.5bn for Port Harcourt refinery rehabilitation,’ the Minority Leader had said a critical cost analysis of the project indicated “a huge scam and a ploy by unscrupulous elements to hide under the guise of rehabilitation of the refinery to siphon public funds.”

It added that the project could be transparently executed at an amount far less than the approved over-bloated cost.

Elumelu said the caucus noted that while it was in support of any genuine effort to bridge the energy deficit in Nigeria, such should not be used as a ploy by corrupt individuals to fleece the nation.

He also said the opposition lawmakers urged the Federal Executive Council not to release any fund related to the inflated rehabilitation costs until after the review.

But another leader of the caucus, who spoke to our correspondent on Thursday, dismissed the positions taken in Elumelu’s statement.

The lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he did not want to be seen as clashing with the Minority Leader but said work must begin on the refinery.

The lawmaker said, “If you have such a facility and it has been dilapidated for a long time and has not been productive; if you park a car and leave it unused, by the time you come back to it, even if it is brand new, some of the rubber parts would have started to melt.”

When reminded that the criticisms were on the cost of rehabilitation when a similar refinery that is working was sold in Texas at a lesser price. The lawmaker argued that it “depends on the lifespan of the facility.”

He added, “More importantly, it depends on what it takes to bring in things here; the duties that you have to pay, the inclement rate, working environment. Why is importation so expensive here? Why is operating a company so expensive here, compared to other countries? Why is running a factory here so expensive?

“Let them start the work. It is in the process of interrogating the project and auditing it that we will know about those things. I don’t believe that we should stop (the project). Let them do it and let us interrogate and scrutinise it as the work goes on.”

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