Buhari backs down, unbans 113 oil vessels
LESS than 24 hours after the United States authorities warned Nigeria’s leadership against shutting out foreign competitors, President Muhammadu Buhari has lifted the ban on 113 vessels from engaging in crude oil/gas loading activities in any of the terminals within the nation’s territorial waters.
A letter from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), dated September 8, 2015 said the President has approved consideration of all incoming ships, subject to a letter guaranteeing that they are free and will not be used for any illegal activity.
According to the NNPC, Buhari has directed a review of activities of all the affected vessels to determine culpability in illegal operations in the Nigerian territorial waters.
Charles H. Rivkin, the U.S assistant secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, had early this week, stated that Nigeria had to adopt more open trade and investment policies. The U.S official said this during the Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce Conference for Small, Medium Enterprise Finance in Abuja.
His words: “Shutting doors to foreign competitors — whether through import bans, prohibitive tariffs or foreign exchange controls — will not make protected domestic firms more competitive; consumer demands around the world is based on price, quality and choice.”
NNPC had banned the 113 oil tankers from its ports on the orders of the Federal Government two months ago. A July 15, 2015, letter issued by the NNPC referring to a directive from Buhari prohibited the 113 identified tankers from engaging in crude oil/gas loading activities at the terminals. The prohibition also expelled the identified tankers from Nigeria’s territorial waters.
The ban may not be unconnected with alleged discrepancies between the volume of crude oil lifted by the vessels from various Nigerian terminals and the volume eventually discharged abroad to buyers. Meanwhile, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has assured that the corporation will provide all necessary enablers to make the Kaduna Refining Petrochemical Company (KRPC) operate commercially and optimally.
Kachikwu, who gave the assurance yesterday during a facility tour of the refinery in Kaduna, said the oil facility will soon experience a turn around that will make it commercially sustainable. “You will soon have a different company, we must do all it takes to make this company a success,” the GMD stated, while addressing staff of the KRPC.
According to him, all the component units of the refinery, including the Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU) as well as the fuel section, will be fully rehabilitated for resumption of crude supply to the plant. “We must make the FCCU and the fuel section to work in the next three months so that Nigerians will continue to enjoy uninterrupted supply of petroleum products,” Kachikwu said.
Addressing the management and staff in a town hall meeting after the tour, the GMD said: “A lot of energy is being invested to give an accelerated face lift to the refinery,” adding that no stone would be left unturned in his determination to put the plant on the path of profitability.
The GMD pointed out that though the current challenges of the refineries are huge, they are not insurmountable. He praised the vision and foresight of past Nigerian leaders for establishing the refineries and challenged the current generation to sustain the vision, adding that all hands must be on deck to salvage the situation.
Kachikwu stressed that in view of the nation’s low refining capacity, there is need to establish more refineries. “I am pushing to build new refineries next to our existing plants in order to boost the nation’s refining capacity for the common good,” he stated, explaining that the new refineries will be developed by private investors and that NNPC’s role will be just to provide them with space close to the existing refineries to enable them share key facilities such as pipelines and storage tanks.